A local fundraising campaign to save Barton Hill’s last pub has seen donations being returned this week. The Rhubarb Tavern closed in 2020 but last year a couple of musicians announced they would take on the lease. Locals who had been campaigning to reopen the pub were overjoyed, over £35K was raised to renovate the building and the hope of reopening the pub was restored.

But although the current owner of the building, Mona Mogharebi, agreed to lease the pub to Tara Clerkin and Sunny Paradisos after a year of negotiations, a formal agreement was never signed. In addition, Tara and Sunny had to await the outcome of a planning application submitted by the owner proposing flats in the pub garden, before they could proceed.

A decision on the revised planning application is set to be made by councillors at the Development Control Committee meeting on July 24, 2024. Meanwhile locals have complained that the abandoned pub, currently left with its door wide open, is now being targeted by ‘vandals and bored kids’.

READ MORE: Historic Bristol pub could reopen if couple win their bid to take it over

READ MORE: Hope for ‘derelict’ Rhubarb Tavern pub as flats plan in doubt

The planning application submitted by Ms Mogharebi has seen over 170 objections from members of the public. The most recent objection came from a man claiming to be a local highways inspector on July 10, 2024, who echoed the views of the community who have been campaigning to reopen the pub for the last three years when he said that the pub garden should remain as a pub garden.

“I am a Highways inspector for Bristol City Council. Having surveyed the area on foot l wish to point out there’s a lack of suitable places the community can gather and socialise.

“It appears to me that the Rhubarb Tavern is a very positive solution to improving the health and economics of the area. The provision of flats to the rear of the garden will not align with the council aims to tackle socioeconomics.

“Having a ‘hidden garden’ will greatly improve people’s well being as they socialise over the pub offerings. Having said that l object to the building of flats, however the plans to turn the Rhubarb Tavern to its original state, as a pub with a function room upstairs, is a fantastic idea. The garden needs to stay as a garden,” he added.

Campaigners are determined to retain the building as a pub
Campaigners are determined to retain the building as a pub (Image: John Myers)

Alexander Smith, who lives in Barton Hill and has been leading the community campaign to save the pub for the last three years said: “What’s frustrating is because the revision [to the original planning application] has come so late, the crowdfunder can’t hold onto the money for any longer so it’s all having to be refunded now.

“I spoke to Sunny and Tara who said they don’t think they would have the energy to do another crowdfunder. Now they are in an awkward situation with the owner not responding to any communications from anyone.

“Even the council has been trying to get in contact with the owner recently because the building’s unsecured and the front door’s been left open for over two months. It seems as if someone has changed the locks so it can’t be closed so I’ve been running around trying to get hold of anyone who can help secure the building.

“It was on the same day that there was a fire in [the abandoned] school [building] opposite the pub, I was walking past and noticed a couple of smashed windows on the Rhubarb as well.

“Neighbours have seen kids coming in and out and it’s now been spray painted inside. It’s getting into a very sad state now because nobody is doing anything about securing the front door.

“The new proposal is to have the pub remain as one building- so there are no longer plans for private flats on the existing building. There is going to be a little more land given over at the back for a patio but the plans to build a block of flats in the garden is pretty much unchanged.

“Recently we have had people commenting on the Facebook page who are involved in pubs in Bristol and say that the loss of the garden would be detrimental to the pub. I have personally been contacted by people who would be interested in taking on the pub but only with the garden space included.”

Bristol City Council and Mona Mogharebi of Natan Ltd have been approached for a comment.