Covid-19: Oxford's Lamb & Flag pub to close due to pandemic

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image captionThe Lamb & Flag has been operating at the Grade II-listed building on St Giles since 1613

A historic pub, once frequented by authors JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and Thomas Hardy, is to close after more than 400 years.

Oxford University's St John's College, which runs the Lamb & Flag in the city centre, said it had suffered because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pub has been operating on St Giles since 1613, and is due to close on 31 January.

Campaigners said they would oppose any plans to repurpose the building's use.

Its owners said staff at the Grade II-listed pub were placed on furlough in March, and while it reopened in August, it was unable to break even.

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image captionCS Lewis (left) and JRR Tolkien frequented the historic pub

Deputy bursar Steve Elston said they were aware the establishment held "an important place in Oxford's history" but that it had been "hard hit by the pandemic".

He added: "Despite the best efforts of the staff and looking at every option to keep it open, the trading figures of the last 12 months have meant that the pub is not currently financially viable.

"Also the college, as a charity, is not allowed to financially support a loss-making business that is not part of its core charitable objectives."

The college said it was looking to secure the 17th Century pub's long-term future.

'Very disappointing'

David Richardson, Oxford spokesman for the Campaign for Real Ale, said: "It is very disappointing to see St John's call time on one of Oxford's most historic pubs.

"We hope someone will come forward to run it as we would oppose any attempt to change it to another use."

Tolkien and Lewis were said to have frequented The Lamb & Flag, though the nearby Eagle and Child was their usual choice for literary meetings.

The Lamb & Flag was also said to have inspired parts of Hardy's novel Jude the Obscure, and has appeared in the TV series Endeavour.

Its profits normally go towards funding scholarships for graduate students.

St John's said the scheme would continue, though funding would now come directly from the college.

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