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Last orders for AWT pub
By Linda Serck
Despite being a successful celebrity chef, Berkshire's Antony Worrall Thompson says he too has been affected by the economic downturn by having to shut one of his pubs, The Greyhound.
With the most recent Beer & Pub Association report highlighting that 39 pubs are closing every week, you may assume that a celebrity chef-run establishment would survive.
Not so. Berkshire-based chef Antony Worrall Thompson announced today (Monday 26 January 2009) that he's having to close his beloved Greyhound pub in Gallowstree Common.
He says that despite his high-profile status he too is affected by the economic downturn.
"Just because I'm a TV celebrity it doesn't mean you're doing any better than anyone else," he says.
"The owner/operator or a husband-and-wife team in a pub like that could probably survive, but when you're running a group of restaurants with expensive chefs and expensive managers, then it makes it incredibly hard. And we suffer."
He adds: "It's a beautiful pub but unfortunately in these economic times we're going through, the country tends to draw on its purse strings earlier than the towns, that's for sure."
On top of his celebrity profile, it may also come as a surprise that a relatively affluent area such as South Oxfordshire is also feeling the pinch.
"It's reverting back to the 70s," says Antony, "it's very much Saturday night and Sunday lunch they (the pubs) are busy. But you can't survive on that nowadays, the wages are all different and you can't survive on two sessions a week.
"Drinkers aren't coming beceause of smoking laws and all sorts of things like that."
Closing the pub isn't just a calculated business decision for him either.
"We tried very hard, it's like losing a bit of the family," he tells BBC Berkshire.
"We spent a fortune on that place five or six years ago when we put it together.
"We were looking at it last night as we were clearing the shelves and we thought 'it's so sad'.
"We had a lot of really faithful customers but it's just one of those things I'm afraid to say."
AWT, who owns five other eateries, says he noticed a decline in business at the Greyhound a month before Christmas 2008.
"We were running about 12 to 15 per cent down on the previous year. Then suddenly December was down by 35 per cent," he says.
And it's not just The Greyhound that has seen a drop in sales.
"I am seeing it generally," says Antony, "but my heart ruled my head when I bought The Greyhound. I didn't think about the implications of a downturn.
He adds: "When you're doing well and everything's buzzing along very nicely you can afford that rent, then as soon as we have a downturn it kicks in.
"The other ones aren't doing that well either, there's no doubt about it."
last updated: 26/01/2009 at 10:33