Landlady calls time on Hanley's Victoria on the Square
A POPULAR pub has been forced to close – leaving the landlady £50,000 in debt.
Bernadette Kerrigan invested £250,000 of her own money into the Victoria on the Square but called time on the business on New Year's Eve.
She said rising rates, the redevelopment of Hanley and the economic downturn had all led to dwindling profits.
The 55-year-old has now been declared insolvent and is in the process of moving out of the Hanley pub.
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She said: "It's been a really difficult time for me. I put my heart, soul and all my money into the Victoria. It was my life.
"I struggled on for a while but the rates went up and up and it just became too much for the business."
Bernadette had managed the pub from 1990 to 1995 but returned to buy it from Pub Master in 2003 after running the Fox and Duck in Hanley for five years.
She said: "I rescued it really. It was all boarded up and I thought I could give running it a good go.
"I completely renovated the place and installed a new bar.
"Back then I had no idea that the recession was coming and business was really great for several years.
"I started out at a rate of £10,000 annually, which is quite reasonable really.
"But that jumped up to £13,000, then £18,000 and by this year I was asked to pay £22,000.
"It was too high. I couldn't afford it anymore."
Despite selling two properties to raise the funds to run a hotel at the pub, she struggled to attract new customers.
She said: "Footfall past the pub started to drop a lot after the development of the new Tesco started.
"I lost Sunday trade when the market and car boot sale moved from Clough Street to Canon Street because there was double the parking."
"My takings in 2008 had been around the £600,000 mark but the recession really took hold and it dropped by £200,000 a year after 2008.
"People just couldn't afford to go out and preferred to stay in with a bottle of wine."
Since closing the business, Bernadette has moved in with her mother in Birches Head.
She said: "My family have been incredibly supportive. I don't have children or a partner, the pub was my life and I was close to my customers.
"I've cried all I can over it – it's just about picking myself back up and carrying on now."
Regular customer, Sue Burrows, aged 58, travelled from Abbey Hulton to the Victoria on the Square several times a week.
She said: "We moved from Shelton two years ago but kept going to the pub.
"It was a warm safe environment with great regulars.
"Bernie was a fantastic landlady and did a brilliant job of running the place. I will really miss it."
Mick Perry, from Trent Vale, said he will find it hard to find another pub as 'welcoming'.
His daughter Charlotte worked behind the bar for two years.
He said: "There was never any trouble and it was an ideal atmosphere for a bit of an older crowd on a Friday and Saturday night.
"I'm getting towards 60 years old now and it's hard to find places to go for a drink where there aren't fights or funny business.
"I'm not sure we'll be able to find anywhere half as good. I was very sad to see it go."