Regulars at two JD Wetherspoon pubs in the Borders are raising glasses in celebration now plans to sell them off have been dropped.
Drinkers were left shocked and disappointed in April after the Hertfordshire-based pub chain announced that the Bourtree in Hawick and the Cross Keys in Peebles were being put up for sale.
They were among 16 of its watering holes nationwide put on the market. However, following a review of those sell-off plans, the company has had a rethink and decided that both Borders pubs advertised for sale will be taken off the market, along with the Alexander Bain at Wick in Caithness.
No reason for that change of heart has been given, but the news has been welcomed by the 62 staff employed at the two pubs here now they no longer face an uncertain future.
Customers too have expressed their relief.
Among them is Hawick IT technician Lee Tottman, organiser of a 200-plus-name online petition urging Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin not to sell off the Bourtree, in Bourtree Place.
He said: “It’s brilliant news. I’m very pleased they’ve decided not to go ahead and sell it, for the time being at least.
“I really don’t know what’s brought this about. I’ve been onto them a few times to tell them how much of a hub it is for the community and how much of a loss it would be if it were sold, but they came back every time saying they weren’t going to change their minds, so this is quite a shock.
“I’d like to think that putting in a petition contributed a little bit to their decision, but I don’t think it did. It must have been some far bigger reason than my small protest.”
Bourtree manager Richard Conway begged to differ, though, saying: “The town really got behind us, and they’ve supported the petition and offered their support with positive comments on social media, and that has really been a great help.
“That support has been a massive factor in us actually staying open.”
Nick Theurer, a duty manager at the pub, added: “It’s fantastic news. Morale was quite high among the staff anyway, but this news has added tothat morale. Now we just need to keep improving and go from strength to strength.
“We’re looking forward to the common riding period continuing as, as well as being a boon for the town, it should be a boon for us too.”
Fellow pub boss Alex McTrusty only took over at the Cross Keys, in Northgate, a month ago, so he is delighted to learn that he won’t be on the move again at short notice.
Alex, formerly boss at the Hunters Hall in Galashiels, the other of the chain’s three pubs in the Borders, said: “The company has decided to take it off the market, and we’re going to keep the pub. It’s definitely great news for the town.
“I took over here knowing the pub was up for sale but still decided to come because it’s a really good little pub.
“Since the news of it staying open broke, the morale of staff has definitely improved and customer morale has improved too.
“I don’t know the reasons for the change of heart, but we are just grateful it’s staying.
“Peebles is such a nice wee place, and I have been asked by the company if I would stay here and I quite happily said I would.
“This pub has one of the very best beer gardens in Scotland for Wetherspoon’s. It’s fantastic out the back, with seats for over 70 people. This decision is great timing with summer now here.”
Opening the Bourtree in the old Hawick Tory club in 2011 cost Wetherspoon £1.1m.
The Cross Keys, the oldest pub in Peebles, was taken over by the firm in 2014.
The Hunters Hall is currently closed for an £812,000 expansion but is due to reopen later this month.
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