Ipswich: Grinning Rat landlord may appeal court ruling after failing in a bid to remain behind the bar

Pub goers show their support for landlord of the Grinning Rat, James Iannone

Pub goers show their support for landlord of the Grinning Rat, James Iannone - Credit: Archant

The landlord of a “gay-friendly” pub in Ipswich may appeal a court ruling after failing in his bid to remain behind the bar.

James Iannone, landlord of the Grinning Rat in St Helen’s Street, is taking legal advice on whether to lodge an appeal after Ipswich County Court ruled he must leave the pub by Friday next week after finding in favour of Punch Taverns.

The 37-year-old has been embroiled in a legal battle with Punch Taverns, who won Thursday’s court case and were awarded possession of the pub, since the start of the year.

Mr Iannone claims he has transformed the pub into a “thriving, gay-friendly community pub” after signing a Tenancy at Will contract with a view to extending the deal to a five-year tenancy agreement with Punch Taverns in January.

But four months later his new employers told him he had just a week to hand over the keys ahead of a new landlord taking over – without any warning, he argues.

Mr Iannone, backed by his band of loyal customers, twice staged a sit-in protest when Punch Taverns officials visited his premises to assume control of the pub after he was granted an extra seven days of reprieve.

The impasse sparked controversy in the town, with Jane Scott, social secretary for the Ipswich and East Suffolk branch of CAMRA, branding the effort to evict Mr Iannone as “incredible”.

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More than 700 people signed an online petition in support of Mr Iannone. But after a judge ruled in favour of Punch Taverns, granting them possession of the pub, Mr Iannone said he was not about to give up his battle.

“We are considering an appeal and are waiting to hear back from our solicitors,” he said.

“I was completely disappointed with the outcome. But every cloud has a silver lining and all I can say is that Ipswich will still hopefully have a gay-friendly pub in the near future.”

A Punch Taverns spokesman said: “We have been granted possession and Mr Iannone must leave the premises in 14 days. We are pleased with the outcome and look to reopen the Grinning Rat with Mr Luke Hughes as soon as possible so it can continue to serve the local community.”