A barbecue restaurant which garnered glowing reviews from national newspaper critics is closing due to rising costs.

New tenants are being sought for The Red Lion in Witney's Corn Street, which is trading as an American Smokehouse.

The owners, Sam Halsey, long-standing friend, Maverick Ogden and his wife, Sian, started the Chequers Smokehouse nearly 10 years ago, moving and renaming it Red Lion Smokehouse in 2020.

They said in a public post: "It is with our deepest regret that we have had to hand our notice in to our landlords.

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"Nearly 10 years ago four local friends brought The Smokehouse to Witney.

"We moved down the street after Covid and hoped the larger space would work for us.

"Unfortunately with the recovery from Covid, the cost of living crisis and the increase in food and general business costs we can no longer keep going."

The restaurant will be open until April and the owners hope the public will continue to support them as a local, independent restaurant.


"We will continue to come up with new ideas, specials and challenges over the last few months and hope you will join us," they said.

The Smokehouse and bar won praise from The Sunday Times and Telegraph for its menu based around the smokehouses of America’s Deep South with ribs, burgers and smoky and sweet sauces on offer.

In May 2021 the team opened a new gourmet burger bar Burgers and Brews in Carterton.

Sisters Debbie Hackett and Kim Cook who run the sweet shop The Shake Shop on Witney High Street replied to the post, saying that "as a fellow independent, we are so sad to read of your news".

"You will be a huge and sad loss to Witney. It really is hard to keep going in these difficult times. We completely understand all your reasons for closing," the sisters said.

Pub and brewing company Greene King is advertising for new tenants to "take this current food led business" and operate the premises as 'a late night venue'.

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The advertisement reads: "The Red Lion, Witney, is currently trading as an American Smokehouse restaurant, but has previously operated as a late night venue and licensed until 2am.

"We are looking for a new partner who can re-introduce the Red Lion as a late night venue to drive the wet volume, but can ensure the pub offers food and a casual environment during the day, whilst ramping up the party atmosphere during the weekend evenings."

It adds: "You’ll need to be able to adapt your offer as the days turn to night, offering food, entertainment and late-night drinks.

"Is this a pub business that excites you?"