‘It’s sad to end like this’ – Popular Ipswich pub announces shock closure

The Black Horse Pub in Ipswich is set to close its doors. Picture: ARCHANT

The Black Horse Pub in Ipswich is set to close its doors. Picture: ARCHANT

The landlord of the Black Horse pub, which has served the town centre of Ipswich since the 14th century, says it “will not get a proper goodbye” when it closes because of lockdown restrictions.

The popular pub in Black Horse Lane, which is believed to be the oldest of its name in East Anglia, is set to close its doors on Saturday, May 30, when the current tenancy agreement comes to an end the following day.

Michelle Taft, who took over the pub in January 2017, says “it is sad and frustrating to end this way”.

She said: “Unfortunately due to the current climate there is no-one looking at taking The Black Horse on. The brewery will be boarding the pub up until someone wishes to take it on in whatever format they wish.”

This means the historic pub - which is owned by Stonegate, which recently bought the Ei Group plc - will remain closed until further notice.

Michelle, who works full-time as a finance assistant and her husband Phil, who is a custodial manager, submitted the notice to end the tenancy agreement in February this year, following the sudden ill-health of a family member.

Speaking of the closure, Michelle said: “The plan was that someone would continue to run it as it is and we would visit as customers, but because of coronavirus no-one wants to take on a pub right now.

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“The business was doing well, but we made the decision to close in February due to family reasons.”

Michelle, who grew up in Ranelagh Road and went to Chantry High School, says she is “sentimentally attached” to the pub, which she has fond memories of since her childhood.

“My mum and grandma used to work as bar staff at the pub in the 70s and I used to go there all the time,” explained Michelle, who is turning 50 this year.

“I’d always had an interest in The Black Horse and so when it came up I just knew I had to rescue it and turn it into the family-friendly pub for our local community.”

Michelle’s daughter, alongside friend Amy, ran the pub day-to-day, with Michelle and Phil stepping in at weekends when they weren’t working and helping out with fundraisers. This is the third pub the pair have taken on together, after previously running the Milestone and The Railway in the town.

The pub was known for its music nights on Fridays and Saturdays, with live performances from rock bands, and of course its yearly bike show in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice.

The lockdown announcement meant Michelle was forced to put her staff on furlough and close down very quickly, with tons of stock still sitting in the cellar.

“It all happened so quickly,” she explained. “There really was no way for us to reduce our losses, so it has been a really difficult time.”

Michelle also had plans to celebrate her 50th birthday there this summer, as well as her son’s 18th and a range of ‘goodbye’ parties for the local community, which have all since been cancelled.

Speaking of her time as the pub landlord, Michelle said: “It’s been an amazing pub to run, with an amazing group of customers who have become like one big family to us.

“I would like to thank everyone for all for their custom and support over the past three years and to all the band’s that have played to entertain us all.”