A number of pubs claim to be England’s oldest: Even New York City’s oldest bar can’t be agreed upon, so what chance do we have to determine the oldest watering hole in a country founded 900 years earlier? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, however, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks — dating back to 793 — holds the honour for the United Kingdom. But the Hertfordshire-based pub is in danger of relinquishing that title… because it just went out of business.
The oldest pub in Britain is looking for a way to make a comeback
The current operator of the pub in St. Albans announced recently that they have filed for bankruptcy, blaming “a sustained period of extremely challenging trading conditions” — a similar refrain to a number of historic British pubs that have closed during the pandemic.
“Along with my team, I have tried everything to keep the pub going. However, the past two years have been unprecedented for the hospitality industry, and have defeated all of us who have been trying our hardest to ensure this multi-award-winning pub could continue trading into the future,” Christo Tofalli, who ran the pub, said in a Facebook post. “It goes without saying I am heartbroken: this pub has been so much more than just a business to me, and I feel honoured to have played even a small part in its history.”
Yet, with over 1,200 years under its belt, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks — which reportedly received its current name after hosting literal cock fights back in the late 19th century — is likely to fight another day.
The property itself is owned by Mitchells and Butlers, one of the UK’s largest pub groups which told the BBC that it planned to keep the pub running with a new team at some point in the future. Tofalli confirmed that news, telling the BBC, “We are all looking for the best way forward for the pub but it will reopen with new owners and I hope they will keep a bit of the soul and spirit going.”
Still, even if Ye Olde Fighting Cocks sees its 1,230th birthday, which seems likely, the simple fact that such a world-famous pub couldn’t stay open on name alone would seem to indicate just how difficult owning a pub has been over the past couple of years.
This story first appeared on www.foodandwine.com
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