Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Uncertain future for Southampton's Hobbit pub

The Hobbit
Image caption The Hobbit has been trading for more than 25 years

A pub at the centre of a copyright row is in danger of closing due to the cost of repairs and business rates, its landlady has said.

Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellen stepped in to support The Hobbit in Southampton in 2012 in a dispute with a Hollywood film company which owned the rights to JRR Tolkien brands.

Landlady Stella Morris said repair costs and rates were "not sustainable".

Southampton City Council said it had applied the maximum discount in rates.

Ms Morris said "pure economics", along with changes in drinking habits, meant the Portswood pub was near "the end of the line".

She said the business rates bill was now £37,000.

"The business rates have got to a level where they are not sustainable with our level of trade. Rent and rates is nearly a quarter of our turnover.

"The building is enormous and the upkeep and the overheads are huge. It's got too much for us."

Image caption The pub was at the centre of a row over its use of JRR Tolkien images

A crowdfunding appeal has been set up online to raise £7,500 for the pub which has been trading for more than 25 years.

Southampton City Council said the pub qualified for a £1,000 discount as part of the business rate relief scheme announced in the Spring Budget.

A spokesman added the council had "no discretion" to increase the reduction.

In 2012, the pub was threatened with legal action the Saul Zaentz Company which accused it of copyright infringement by using the name "The Hobbit" and other JRR Tolkien characters and film images in the pub.

Sir Ian, who plays Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings films, described the film company's actions as "unnecessary pettiness" and Fry said it was "self-defeating bullying".

Ms Morris said the pub was still in discussions to conclude an agreement over the copyright issues.

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