THE Lamb & Flag, one of Oxford’s most historic pubs, is to close following tough trading conditions causes by coronavirus lockdowns.

The pub in St Giles, popular with students and real ale drinkers has existed since 1566, and switched to its current site in 1613.

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.'

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The pub will remain in the college’s ownership and options for its future will now be considered. The building is Grade II listed.

Dave Richardson, of the Oxford branch of real ale group CAMRA, said: “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.

Oxford Mail: Dave Richardson, left and other members of Oxford branch of CAMRADave Richardson, left and other members of Oxford branch of CAMRA

“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 people also made it their first stop when they visited Oxford.”

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Mr Richardson said CAMRA would object to any change of use application to the city council and would consider applying for the pub to be named an Asset of Community Value, which would give a community group the chance to buy it and ensure owners needed planning permission for any change of use or demolition.

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Mr Richardson added: “The pub was not tied to a brewery so it would offer up to six different real ales and was one of the few places where you could buy real cider.”

Oxford Mail: Inside The Lamb & Flag Picture: Savills/St John's CollegeInside The Lamb & Flag Picture: Savills/St John's College

The Lamb & Flag (Oxford) Limited took over the management of the pub in 1997 to use the profits generated 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.

Steve Elston, deputy bursar of St John’s College, said: “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.

Oxford Mail: The Lamb & Flag in OxfordThe Lamb & Flag in Oxford

"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.”

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In 2019 the college hired Savills to put in place a new management agreement, offering the pub free of trading ties for five years. Famous visitors have included CS Lewis and Thomas Hardy, former US President Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.