The UK's Oldest Pub Has An Uncertain Future

If you've ever visited the U.K., chances are you've stepped into a pub to down a pint or two. An integral part of British culture, pubs date back as far as 43 AD, when invading Roman armies set up roadside tabernae, or shops that sold wine — which eventually converted to "taverns" selling beer and ale, the preferred British beverages (via Historic UK). Pub culture has survived and evolved over thousands of years, remaining a hub for social life, especially for students.

Given their long history, it makes sense that England is still home to some ancient pubs. According to The Drinks Business, various pubs that lay claim to being among the country's oldest include The Old Ferryboat Inn in Cambridgeshire, which likely opened in 1400 AD, and the Porch House in Cheltenham, which has poured pints since 947 AD.

Even older is St Albans' Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which claims to have been established in 793 (via BBC). But in a statement released last week, the pub's owner announced that it will close its doors — for now.

An "unprecedented" era for the hospitality industry

As any food lover knows by now, the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have, in many cases, been a death knell for many independent restaurants and bars. According to TIME, about 80,000 restaurants in the U.S. alone have temporarily or permanently closed since early 2020 — figures that are echoed across the globe.

Many have mourned the closure of a favorite local café or watering hole, and now, one of the world's oldest has announced that it's shutting its doors due to financial hardship: Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans, England, about an hour drive north of London. Last Friday, the pub's most recent owner, Christo Tofalli, announced on Facebook that the ancient tavern has gone into administration — a legal process similar to bankruptcy — and that although the pub will likely reopen, it will be under new owners.

"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," Tofalli wrote. "The Covid-19 pandemic was devastating and our already tight profit margins gave us no safety net ... 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."

Support from around the world

After sharing his statement on Facebook, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks owner Christo Tofalli was flooded with messages of support from around the world. He told the BBC, "I've never seen anything like it. With all the messages I have had, it speaks for itself what we achieved."

"To be reading about the impact we've had on people is mind-boggling and extremely humbling," Tofalli continued. "We became an important part of the community ... the family we created was huge. The time has come for me but we will make sure the handover is seamless and the synergy keeps going."

To date, Tofalli's announcement has received more than 900 reactions and over 300 comments. Many users suggested starting a crowdfunding campaign to keep the pub in Tofalli's hands. "Christo, you are indeed a legend and at the heart of our great St Albans Community," one fan wrote. "If I could do a heist to save you I would! Is a crowdfunder an option at all. We would all be behind you. Just loads of love to you all." While the future of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks remains uncertain, it has many supporters rooting for a revival that stays true to the historic pub's spirit.