The Lamb & Flag pub, which has existed since 1566, will be closing after trading difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic and multiple lockdowns.
The Lamb & Flag (Oxford) Limited, a company owned by St John’s College, which operates the pub, has announced that ‘after careful consideration, the company will close and cease operations on January 31.’
The pub will remain in the college’s ownership and its future is currently being considered. The building is Grade II listed.
The popular pub is renowned for its cosy atmosphere – including a clock that reads backwards – and wide selection of drinks, from German pilsners to English ales and ciders. Past visitors have included the authors CS Lewis and Thomas Hardy, as well as politicians like the former US President Bill Clinton and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Dave Richardson, of the Oxford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale CAMRA, told The Oxford Mail:
“It is devastating to hear that the Lamb & Flag may never reopen and we will fight hard to keep it as a pub for residents and students so that they can drink there for years to come. It’s got such a long history it would be wrong to let that go. It’s a big student pub and is popular with residents around the city – a lot of people also made it their first stop when they visited Oxford.”
Steve Elston, deputy bursar of St John’s College, told The Oxford Mail:
“The Lamb & Flag, like many other businesses in the hospitality industry, has been hard hit by the pandemic. Despite the best efforts of the staff and looking at every option to keep it open, the trading figures of the last 12 months have meant that the pub is not currently financially viable. Also the college as a charity is not allowed to financially support a loss-making business that is not part of its core charitable objectives.
“Therefore, the directors of the Lamb & Flag (Oxford) Ltd have regrettably been obliged to close the pub. We know that it holds an important place in Oxford’s history. The college would like to thank the staff for their best endeavours in such challenging circumstances. The pub will remain in the college’s ownership and the focus now is to work to look beyond the present situation and ensure the pub’s long-term future is secured.”
Mr Richardson said CAMRA would consider applying to have the pub become an Asset of Community Value, giving a community group the chance to buy it and also ensuring that owners need permission for any change of use or demolition. They would furthermore object to any change of use application.
Since The Lamb & Flag (Oxford) Limited took over the management of the pub in 1997, some of the profits generated have been used to fund scholarships for graduate students. The students on the scholarships will not be impacted by this decision and the scheme will continue for now, with funding provided directly by the college.