Historic town pub saved in £75.6m deal with brewery

Former landlady Lisa Rowberry at The Cross Keys in Abingdon

Former landlady Lisa Rowberry at The Cross Keys in Abingdon

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

A HISTORIC Abingdon pub that was set to be turned into flats has been rescued as part of a £75.6m national deal.

Brewery Greene King had drawn up plans to partially demolish the 17th century Cross Keys in Ock Street and turn it into six one-bedroom apartments.

But now it has sold the inn to new pub investment company Hawthorn Leisure Ltd, along with 274 pubs across the UK.

A Greene King spokeswoman said: “After making the difficult decision to sell the Cross Keys, we have been exploring the possible options available to us.

“Since this planning application was submitted we have now agreed to sell the pub to Hawthorn Leisure and we will be withdrawing the application.

She added: “Our strategy is to reduce the size of our tenanted and leased estate and to improve the overall quality of our remaining pubs. To achieve this we continually review our pubs and do sell those that no longer fit within our core estate.”

Announcing the £75.6m deal, Greene King said it had agreed a three-year beer supply deal for all the pubs from its own “ale brand portfolio”.

It is not yet clear whether the Cross Keys would be included in this supply arrangement.

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Hawthorn Leisure is a new investment company backed by New York global investment firm Avenue Capital and London’s May Capital.

Oxford Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) pubs officer Steven Green welcomed the news.

Mr Green, who lives in Abingdon, said: “Certainly in Abingdon we have rather a lot of Greene King pubs, which means there is a lack of choice of beers.

“It’s certainly far better than it turning into flats.”

He said he thought the pub had potential to do better, and should look into having more entertainment such as live music.

Former Cross Keys landlady Lisa Rowberry quit the pub in December after running it for less than a year, saying trade had been hit by Wetherspoon’s opening in the town centre and an assault in the gents’ toilets.

Abingdon town historian Jackie Smith said town records suggest there has been a pub in that building since the 1680s.

A family of inn keepers, the Giddens, owned the building at that time, and it has been called The Cross Keys since 1854.

In the late 19th century it was one of seven Morrells pubs in Abingdon, owned by the brewing family who lived in Culham.

In the past two years in Abingdon, Oakman Inns has bought The Crown and Thistle and Stocks bar for £1.4m and spent £1.8m on renovations. Dushan Salwathura, owner of The Nag’s Head, The Bridge, has invested £250,000 refurbishing the pub.

Comments (11)

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11:27am Wed 14 May 14

icba1957 says...

So Greene King have sold the pub, but tied it to a three-year exclusive supply deal.
How is that an improvement, CAMRA?
Would have been better turning it into flats.
So Greene King have sold the pub, but tied it to a three-year exclusive supply deal. How is that an improvement, CAMRA? Would have been better turning it into flats. icba1957
  • Score: 4

12:00pm Wed 14 May 14

online_reader says...

I suppose if they can hold out for three years and then become freehold, it is an improvement. That three years is going to be hairy though, isn't it? Time will tell whether the newly invented Hawthorn Leisure are a pub company or a property developer...
I suppose if they can hold out for three years and then become freehold, it is an improvement. That three years is going to be hairy though, isn't it? Time will tell whether the newly invented Hawthorn Leisure are a pub company or a property developer... online_reader
  • Score: 1

12:10pm Wed 14 May 14

greenius says...

A pub selling Greene King beer is better than no pub at all.
A pub selling Greene King beer is better than no pub at all. greenius
  • Score: -1

2:24pm Wed 14 May 14

EMBOX2 says...

"She added: “Our strategy is to reduce the size of our tenanted and leased estate and to improve the overall quality of our remaining pubs."

Untruths from Greedy King. Their strategy is to take the life savings of people who want a career change and fancy running a pub, which has no chance of success because of the extortionate tenancy fees and outrageous prices of beer, and after a few tenants have done their money, GK sell the building off for housing.

They are a nasty, pernicious company who have wrecked the licenced trade in the UK. Ask most GK publicans and they will tell you the truth.

The more pubs that can be wrestled off GK and run by smaller breweries the better. The fact is though, more people need to use pubs for them to survive. The Cross Keys is a bit downmarket, when people want a nice pub with good food - and not Sky Sports blaring out with dodgy Brakes Bros food being served.
"She added: “Our strategy is to reduce the size of our tenanted and leased estate and to improve the overall quality of our remaining pubs." Untruths from Greedy King. Their strategy is to take the life savings of people who want a career change and fancy running a pub, which has no chance of success because of the extortionate tenancy fees and outrageous prices of beer, and after a few tenants have done their money, GK sell the building off for housing. They are a nasty, pernicious company who have wrecked the licenced trade in the UK. Ask most GK publicans and they will tell you the truth. The more pubs that can be wrestled off GK and run by smaller breweries the better. The fact is though, more people need to use pubs for them to survive. The Cross Keys is a bit downmarket, when people want a nice pub with good food - and not Sky Sports blaring out with dodgy Brakes Bros food being served. EMBOX2
  • Score: 11

3:43pm Wed 14 May 14

abouttimeto says...

Having a quick look at the company involved,they seem to talk like a good landlord, but I fear they maybe asset strippers disguised as a new pubco.
They have paid on average 275k for each pub with planning permission for flats the cross keys is worth much more. and this is only one of there new pubs. Only time will tell.
Having a quick look at the company involved,they seem to talk like a good landlord, but I fear they maybe asset strippers disguised as a new pubco. They have paid on average 275k for each pub with planning permission for flats the cross keys is worth much more. and this is only one of there new pubs. Only time will tell. abouttimeto
  • Score: 8

4:07pm Wed 14 May 14

Wolf Pack says...

I would not trust Green King as far as i could throw them Morlands should never have sold out to these profit merchants.
I would not trust Green King as far as i could throw them Morlands should never have sold out to these profit merchants. Wolf Pack
  • Score: 7

4:22pm Wed 14 May 14

EMBOX2 says...

abouttimeto wrote:
Having a quick look at the company involved,they seem to talk like a good landlord, but I fear they maybe asset strippers disguised as a new pubco.
They have paid on average 275k for each pub with planning permission for flats the cross keys is worth much more. and this is only one of there new pubs. Only time will tell.
The only saving grace is the 5 years change of use rule. The Harp/Plough on Stert St has closed down recently, I hope this can be saved and re-opened. It would be a shame to lose another Abingdon pub.
[quote][p][bold]abouttimeto[/bold] wrote: Having a quick look at the company involved,they seem to talk like a good landlord, but I fear they maybe asset strippers disguised as a new pubco. They have paid on average 275k for each pub with planning permission for flats the cross keys is worth much more. and this is only one of there new pubs. Only time will tell.[/p][/quote]The only saving grace is the 5 years change of use rule. The Harp/Plough on Stert St has closed down recently, I hope this can be saved and re-opened. It would be a shame to lose another Abingdon pub. EMBOX2
  • Score: 0

6:11pm Wed 14 May 14

thomashenry says...

Freehold pubs are incredibly undervalued as real estate across the UK generally. £275k for the Cross Keys - ignoring the pub on the ground floor, the two stories of living accommodation above are worth more than that on their own.
Freehold pubs are incredibly undervalued as real estate across the UK generally. £275k for the Cross Keys - ignoring the pub on the ground floor, the two stories of living accommodation above are worth more than that on their own. thomashenry
  • Score: 7

8:38am Thu 15 May 14

horsham says...

Greene King is the kiss of death for pubs...when do you ever see a Fullers pub closing.
Greene King is the kiss of death for pubs...when do you ever see a Fullers pub closing. horsham
  • Score: 3

6:25pm Thu 15 May 14

Notmytype says...

Live music by the walking dead is the kiss of death for pubs, people want somewhere to enjoy a pint and relax - Wetherspoons have understood this, which is why there doing well in Abingdon while the Cross Keys is on its last legs. Like EMBOX2 says there a bit 'downmarket' except that's bit of an understatement. Flats or a supermarket would make more money.
Live music by the walking dead is the kiss of death for pubs, people want somewhere to enjoy a pint and relax - Wetherspoons have understood this, which is why there doing well in Abingdon while the Cross Keys is on its last legs. Like EMBOX2 says there a bit 'downmarket' except that's bit of an understatement. Flats or a supermarket would make more money. Notmytype
  • Score: 5

2:24am Fri 16 May 14

StatelyDave says...

I find it hard to believe that Hawthorn Leisure backed by Avenue Capital and an investment anker are interested in pubs - they are probably more interested in making money! I reckon they will convert the Cross Keys, a pub that is empty most of the time, into something more profitable than 6 flats ! The building alone has got to be worth over a million quid when re-developed, and they got it for 275k! Thank you Rooney Anand ! Like taking candy from a baby. They must be knocking back the magnums of Bollinger in Mayfair ! And laughing all the way to their own investment bank.
I find it hard to believe that Hawthorn Leisure backed by Avenue Capital and an investment anker are interested in pubs - they are probably more interested in making money! I reckon they will convert the Cross Keys, a pub that is empty most of the time, into something more profitable than 6 flats ! The building alone has got to be worth over a million quid when re-developed, and they got it for 275k! Thank you Rooney Anand ! Like taking candy from a baby. They must be knocking back the magnums of Bollinger in Mayfair ! And laughing all the way to their own investment bank. StatelyDave
  • Score: 1

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