BOSSES of a popular pub have confirmed it is set to be the latest in Portsmouth to face the axe.
Little Johnny Russell’s in Albert Road will shut its doors this November, with landlords Ei Group plc —formerly Enterprise Inns set to step in to obtain its lease back on the site.
The pub was the starting block on the road to success for Victorious Festival organisers Andy Marsh, James Ralls and Ben Miles – who set up the establishment 11 years ago.
Mr Marsh confirmed its closure with sadness, stating it had been ‘a real pleasure’ to run the business.
He said: ‘Unfortunately, we are set to lose the lease for the site. It is up in November and we have been told that it is Enterprise’s intention to take it back.
‘We are of course sad that this has happened and at the moment, we are looking at other options but yes, Little Johnny Russell’s will be closing down.’
Its closure follows the Leopold Tavern, also of Albert Road, which surrendered its lease in February to the Ei Group – only for it to be re-opened under new management shortly afterwards. The pub proved to be just the beginning for the three friends as its success led to the decision to set up the Belle Isle restaurant in Osborne Road, a sister business in Chichester and then Meat and Barrel in Palmerston Road.
The success of the ventures led to Victorious Festival which was sold in a lucrative deal earlier this year.
Mr Marsh added: ‘LJR was where it all began for us at the start so it is going to hurt when its taken back.
‘For us, we just want to give people the best pub and live music experience we can until November.
‘We have always been a friendly, safe place and have always been well supported so we hope that people will continue to come down and have a good time with us until then.’
Jenni Catlow, chairman of Albert Road Traders Association said: ‘It’s awful that Little Johnny Russells is closing.
‘It has come down to Enterprise again. They seem to have done the same thing that they did with the Leopold up the road.
‘They seem to be taking up all these independents and trying to turn them all into the same thing. The point of Albert Road is that it is all full of places that have their own character.’
A spokesperson for Ei Publican Partnerships said: ‘We can confirm that Little Johnny Russells will be converting to the Bermondsey Pub Company when the current lease expires in November.
‘The pub will very much remain true to the original character and feel that its customers know and love, with music and weekly entertainment a high priority for us.
‘When we re-open, customers will be able to enjoy an enhanced drink offer that includes a wide range of craft beers, ciders, and spirits.
‘In addition, we are also investing in a pizza oven that will serve fresh, stone baked pizzas.’