Pub closure misery for partygoers

CHRISTMAS parties and celebrations were today under question after a pub was forced to close.The Punch and Judy in Grafton Street, Ipswich was closed after its owner, pub group Orchid, fell into administration earlier this month.

CHRISTMAS parties and celebrations were today under question after a pub was forced to close.

The Punch and Judy in Grafton Street, Ipswich was closed after its owner, pub group Orchid, fell into administration earlier this month.

Although the pub is expected to reopen in January, it is little consolation for four-year-old Benjamin Moore who had his birthday party booked at the Wacky Warehouse above the pub on Saturday.

The youngster was distraught when he and his mum were turned away from the play centre on the day of his party.

His mum Sarah had booked her son's birthday bash three months in advance of the big day - she even visited the play centre three days before the day of the party to finalise arrangements - but it wasn't until the morning of the party that the Moore's were told the bad news.

Mrs Moore, of Lanark Road, Ipswich, said: “We had booked our son's birthday party for 10am and at 9.18am I received a call from the manager to inform me that they couldn't honour the party booking.

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“I had 25 children coming and no way to change arrangements, so we had to put someone on the door to direct other parents. Surely we could have been told earlier.”

Pub group Orchid, which bought 290 former Spirit pubs from Punch Taverns in 2006 for £571m, fell into administration earlier this month - at which point administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) sold most of the group's pubs back to its original owners.

A spokesman for Punch Taverns said it was committed to preserving the pub in Ipswich, saying: “We have done everything we can under the circumstances to keep this pub trading. We will need to close the pub for a few weeks but expect it to reopen in mid January.

“We appreciate that some customers may have Christmas bookings at the Punch and Judy and we have made alternative arrangements to accommodate these bookings as far as possible at our other pubs in the area. It is our understanding that Orchid has agreed to refund the deposits via the administrator, if requested.”

But Mrs Moore said it will make little difference to Benjamin, whose fourth birthday party will stay in his memory for all the wrong reasons. She said: “My son hates having a birthday on December 30 and we always try to make a special day just before Christmas for him but this year it was complete chaos.

“It's hard to explain to a child why he can't have a birthday party.”

Has your party been cancelled? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk