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Tenants shocked and angered as Five Bells pub in Great Cornard set to close later this year following sale to developer



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A pub landlady has spoken of her devastation and anger, after the business she has called home for over 16 years was sold.

The Five Bells in Great Cornard is set to shut its doors on September 20, after owners Hawthorn, The Community Pub Company, sold the business to residential developer 20 Gainsborough Ltd.

Long-time tenant Wendy Mezni described feeling 'still in shock' a month after being told the news just before Christmas, stating the sale had caught her completely off guard.

Abdou and Wendy Mezni, landlady at The Five Bells in Great Cornard, has spoken of her anger at former owners Hawthorn Leisure, who have sold the pub to developers. Picture: Mark Westley
Abdou and Wendy Mezni, landlady at The Five Bells in Great Cornard, has spoken of her anger at former owners Hawthorn Leisure, who have sold the pub to developers. Picture: Mark Westley

She explained she desperately wanted The Five Bells to continue running, and had previously offered to buy the pub from Hawthorn, but had been rejected.

However, Hawthorn insisted its intention to place the business on the market had been made clear, and that only one formal purchase bid was received.

Last year, planning permission was granted for the construction of four bungalows on the land behind the pub in Bures Road.

Abdou and Wendy Mezni, landlady at The Five Bells in Great Cornard, has spoken of her anger at former owners Hawthorn Leisure, who have sold the pub to developers. Picture: Mark Westley
Abdou and Wendy Mezni, landlady at The Five Bells in Great Cornard, has spoken of her anger at former owners Hawthorn Leisure, who have sold the pub to developers. Picture: Mark Westley

Mrs Mezni said she never expected the development to be approved, but once it was, she was under the impression it would proceed without the pub being affected.

“I was told the pub had been sold on Christmas Eve,” she told Suffolk News. “I never heard from Hawthorn. It was the developer who came in and told me.

“I burst into tears when I heard. I feel very bitter and angry. I just don’t know what I’m going to do next.

Abdou and Wendy Mezni, landlady at The Five Bells in Great Cornard, has spoken of her anger at former owners Hawthorn Leisure, who have sold the pub to developers. Picture: Mark Westley
Abdou and Wendy Mezni, landlady at The Five Bells in Great Cornard, has spoken of her anger at former owners Hawthorn Leisure, who have sold the pub to developers. Picture: Mark Westley

“I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. This is my business and my home. I expected to leave here when they carried me out in a box.

“I’m still personally very emotional about it. I’m a very strong character, but this has really hit me hard.”

In response, a spokeswoman for Hawthorn, The Community Pub, said: “The intention to put the pub up for sale was made clear to Wendy some time ago.

The Five Bells in Great Cornard. Picture: Mark Westley
The Five Bells in Great Cornard. Picture: Mark Westley

“Once on the market, we received one offer to buy the freehold, from the same local developer who purchased land to the rear of the pub last year, and sold the pub as a going concern.”

The final day of trading for The Five Bells is currently set as September 20.

Mrs Mezni suggested the only hope for the pub’s future is for the community to help fight her cause.

Abdou and Wendy Mezni, landlady at The Five Bells in Great Cornard, has spoken of her anger at former owners Hawthorn Leisure, who have sold the pub to developers. Picture: Mark Westley
Abdou and Wendy Mezni, landlady at The Five Bells in Great Cornard, has spoken of her anger at former owners Hawthorn Leisure, who have sold the pub to developers. Picture: Mark Westley

“I put the news on Facebook and had lots of positive comments,” she added. “But, if we were really busy, the pub wouldn’t be up for sale.

“Business has dropped big time with Covid. Prior to that, we were known as an old gentlemen’s pub, and a lot of those customers had passed on. We started to pick up some youngsters, but then Covid hit.

“People have gotten used to drinking at home and out of the habit of socialising at a pub.

“There’s so many new houses coming into the village and this is a traditional, old-fashioned pub that could be their local. There’s so much history here.

“I never say never. I would love people to get on board and fight our cause. If the developer can see lots of people there, they might decide to build at the back and leave the pub.

“If business does pick up and people start using it, you never know. We can hope.”