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Jasper Carrott threatens 'showbiz picket' at village pub over landlord eviction threat

Added: Saturday, April 16th 2016

Jasper Carrott

Comedian Jasper Carrott is so outraged by Enterprise Inns’ treatment of the landlord of a Warwickshire village pub that he threatens to join a picket line outside and bring his show business friends with him.

The Red Lion in Claverdon, five miles from Warwick and close to Stratford-on-Avon, has been run successfully for seven years by Ayman Zahran. He has built up the trade and was given an extension to his lease by Enterprise in 2015.

But now the giant pubco has given him six months’ notice of their intention to terminate the agreement. It has caused so much anger in the village that locals have organised a petition demanding he keep his job.

It has gained close to 2,000 signatures and has won support from Jasper Carrott, who lives in the area. He's pictured at the pub with Mr Zahran. The comedian says when he visited the Red Lion he found it to be “a community pub where customers were made welcome and where the food was excellent.

“We came in one lunchtime and Ayman told us his lease wasn’t being renewed and I couldn’t believe it. He said it was Enterprise Inns. How ironic! It’s he who is enterprising. And what do they do? They cut his legs off.

“We’ve lost the post office and a lot of what villages are supposed to be about. And this is a community hub. It’s restored the community of the surrounding area. People have to be made to feel welcome and that is what happens in this place.”

Mr Carrott added that the “silent majority” were far from silent when they were stirred to anger – and this was what was happening with customers at the Red Lion. He said he would boycott the pub if Mr Zahran is forced to leave.

Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi has added his support to Mr Zahran and has asked Enterprise Inns to reverse its decision. But he says he has “hit a brick wall” with the company.

The MP says: “I was very sorry to hear that Zahran’s lease at the Red Lion would not be extended by Enterprise Inns, especially considering the time, effort and money he has put into making it better and better. He has been the driving force behind making the pub the place it is today, as well as throwing himself wholeheartedly into the local community.”

Cllr Tony Rodger, deputy chairman of Claverdon Parish Council, accused Enterprise of “unethical behaviour”. He said he had invited the company to meet him at the Red Lion but imagined it was “too shamefaced” to take up the invitation as it had signed an agreement last year to extend Mr Zahran’s lease and is  now terminating it.

“Is that what modern big business has come to?” Cllr Rodger asked. “In my day, a handshake on a deal was enough but, alas, no more.”

In a statement, Enterprise Inns said it “had carefully reviewed all the available options and we can confirm that we have decided not to offer Mr Zahran a new lease agreement at the Red Lion.

“We have acted fully within the terms of the lease by serving six months’ notice to Mr Zahran and intend to offer to work with him to find and secure an alternative Enterprise site for his restaurant operation in Warwickshire.”

Enterprise added that “it would like to reassure the residents of Claverdon and the surrounding area that the Red Lion will remain as licensed premises and hope they continue to visit and enjoy their local pub.”

Ayman Zahran said his treatment “left a bad taste in my mouth”.

The petition can be signed at Claverdon’s community shop, the doctors’ surgery, the primary school and at the Red Lion.

*Enterprise Inns has now agreed to meet local MP Nadhim Zahawi to discuss the issue.

*Thanks to the Stratford Herald.