Portsmouth pub Mr Pickwick faces uncertain future after lease is put up for sale

Mr Pickwick pub landlady Nicky Richardson, front, and barmaid Rachael
Mr Pickwick pub landlady Nicky Richardson, front, and barmaid Rachael
The boardwalks at Port Solent this evening, as visitors enjoyed the Festival of Christmas

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The future of a popular pub is in jeopardy after plans were unveiled to sell its lease.

Harnser Inns has placed Mr Pickwick in Milton Road, Milton, Portsmouth, on the market, prompting fears it will be snapped up by a developer and turned into something else.

Current Mr Pickwick manager Nicky Richardson hopes whoever takes over the building will see the merit in keeping it on as a community pub – where locals cherish good banter and a cold beer.

Nicky has been the manager of the Victorian pub, named after a famous Charles Dickens character, since October last year.

She said: ‘I am on a rolling contract at the moment until someone comes in to take it over. I don’t want to walk away from the pub but I may lose my job. It depends on whether the next set of people want to keep me and the team on.

‘People have been talking about it being turned into a restaurant or a Tesco, but the company has said “no, we want to see it continue as a pub, so we’ll see.’

Talking about how much her job and the pub means to her, Nicky said: ‘It’s my life, basically.

‘I’m hoping to push this out until the end of the year at least, because I don’t want to leave.

‘It’s a nice place, and the customers are fantastic.

‘It’s got a good rapport and I went on a drive to get rid of all the troublemakers.

‘It’s where people can come to have a laugh. It’s a family pub.’

The pub goes down a storm with punters on Pompey match days and it does its fair share for good causes.

‘We get football fans who come in who have done so for years,’ Nicky said.

‘We keep our regulars and there isn’t any trouble so it’s good for them.’

Staff recently took on a 40km walk from Crawley to Brighton in an effort to raise cash for the MS Society, as Mr Pickwick worker Kerry Parker suffers with the condition.

The team’s efforts helped to raise more than £1,000.

Nicky, in a bid to pull in more visitors and raise the profile of the pub, is rolling out plans to reintroduce live music and karaoke.

Nicky said: ‘It’s the atmosphere here that draws people in. I’ve found that in the last four months, it’s really picked up. It’s busy most of the time now. The locals definitely want to see this place kept going; some of them have been drinking in here for 20 years.

‘It’s mainly a pub that attracts men, but they bring in their families, and more women have started to come in as well.’

EXPERIENCED publican Nicky Richardson has been working in the pub trade since she was 18.

The 39-year-old has given teams a hand in pubs around the area, including the former Oliver Twist pub, in Portsmouth, The Cabman’s Rest, The Sally Port Hotel and The Lord Raglan, in Emsworth.

Nicky said: ‘I just really enjoy working in pubs.

‘My mum worked behind the bar.

‘And when I was 18 I needed a job so I got offered a job in the local pub. I worked a few shifts before being taken on.

‘I have always enjoyed socialising with people and like to keep people entertained and have a laugh.’

Mr Pickwick has faced its fair share of challenges over the years – but locals have shown how much the venue means to them and ensured it’s kept going.

In 2012, when brewery GRS Inns went into liquidation, local customers raided their own drinks cupboards and bought kegs of beer to ensure the pub didn’t close.

The pub sold off their purchases and sales kept it afloat until new owners were found.

Nicky says the pub’s spirit is still strong; and it has a good relationship with other pubs nearby along Portsmouth’s Milton Road; The Brewer’s Arms and The Milton Arms.

Nicky said: ‘All of the pubs have a good relationship and get on well and help each other out.

‘If we run out of stock, we can always sask the others for help before our main delivery arrives.

‘If there’s any trouble, they’ll call up to let us know so we’re aware, and we would do the same.’