Claverdon takes action to keep ‘integral and colourful’ licensee at village pub

Ayman Zahran at the Red Lion in Claverdon.
Ayman Zahran at the Red Lion in Claverdon.

Keeping their village pub at the heart of the community is the aim of people in Claverdon who are campaigning against the decision to terminate its current licensee’s lease.

Villagers want Red Lion leaseholder Ayman Zahran, 49, to stay in charge saying that since he took over the running of the pub in 2009 he has been a ‘generous, integral and colourful’ part of village life.

But freeholder Enterprise Inns Plc has recently issued Mr Zahran with a section 25 notice to terminate his occupation in September.

In response villagers have launched a petition and hundreds gathered at the pub on Wednesday to show their support for Mr Zahran.

The Balsall Common resident said: “The support is really overwhelming but when I came here this is what I wanted - for the community to be like one big family. Over the years we have supported a lot of things which have been going on in the village like moving the community shop to a new location and helping with fundraising for Warwick Hospital.

“Everyone who works for me gets a share of the profits the pub makes, so they care about how the business is going and care that it is part of their community.”

Comedian Jasper Carrott, who lives nearby, is backing the campaign.

He said: “It will be a huge disappointment to lose this very talented entrepreneur to dubious circumstances. Unless these circumstances are sorted out, morally and fairly, there will be a huge backlash of discontent from angry clientele and the future of The Red Lion will be in danger.

“I ask Enterprise Inns to seriously reconsider their approach to this matter and to treat it with the utmost consideration.”

Another supporting Mr Zahran is Stratford-upon-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi, who said: “I was very sorry to hear that Mr Zahran’s lease of the Red Lion would not be extended by Enterprise Inns, especially considering the time, effort and money he has put in to make the pub better and better. He has been the driving force behind making the pub the place it is today, as well as throwing himself wholeheartedly into the community. I have written to Enterprise’s chief executive asking him to personally look at what can be done to reconsider this decision, in recognition of the excellent work Mr Zahran has done.”

Villagers have said that Mr Zahran poured money and energy into resurrecting the historic pub’s reputation.

A spokesperson for Enterprise Inns has said: “Having carefully reviewed all the available options, we can confirm that we have decided not to offer Mr Zahran a new lease agreement at the Red Lion. We have acted fully within the terms of the lease by serving six months’ notice to Mr Zahran and we intend to offer to work with him to find and secure an alternative Enterprise site for his restaurant operation in Warwickshire. We would like to reassure the residents of Claverdon and surrounding area that the Red Lion will remain as a licensed premises and hope that they continue to visit and enjoy their local pub.”