One of County Armagh’s most popular pubs has confirmed it is to close – blaming lack of staff for the decision.
The Montagu Arms, at Church Street in Tandragee, has been a mainstay of the town for many years.
In that time it has been at the heart of the local community, providing food, drinks and quality entertainment.
The current owners have been at the helm since the year 2000.
The news today will have devastated locals and given an indication of the difficulties currently faced by the beleaguered hospitality industry.
The news was confirmed via social media, as the top of the town hostelry – which also operates as a guest house and off-licence – dropped the bombshell.
It said: “Due to lack of staff availability in the hospitality industry since the onset of Covid pandemic, we have been left with no option but to close The Montagu Arms.
“We apologise for any disappointment or inconvenience this may cause to our patrons and wish to thank you for your loyalty and valued custom over the past 22 years.”
One shocked resident, whom Armagh I spoke to in Tandragee this afternoon, said: “Tandragee is a town which is suffering because the younger generation are moving out of it.”
The woman, who has been a resident of the town for 47 years, 20 of them spent working at Tayto, said neighbouring towns such as Portadown are more attractive to businesses, with better commuter links.
“Tandragee is quickly becoming a drive-thru from Portadown to Banbridge, just like Gilford has done, and with it comes the higher vacant property rates driven by the lack of money being spent in here,” she said.
“What was once a thriving community, where locals supported local businesses, is now suffering. The lack of investment by property landlords and owners has left Tandragee in a very poor visual state, which can only be adding fuel to the fire.
“This is another long-standing Tandragee business which has now gone. How many more can survive?”
Local Independent Unionist Councillor Paul Berry has expressed his sadness at the move.
But he is also hopeful that it may return.
Mr Berry, himself a Tandragee businessman, told Armagh I : “I was very sorry to learn that the owners have announced closer of The Montague Arms as a result of ongoing staffing issues.
“Just last week I had a conversation with the owner about his ongoing staff recruitment issues and the general hospitality challenges following the consequences of Covid.
“This business has been very much at the heart of Tandragee for many years and the town is shocked and saddened to learn of this news.
“The owners are from the town and our hearts go out to them at the minute given their commitment to the town for many years.
“I do know that many within the hospitality sector, from small cafes to large hotels, are facing very similar issues and let’s hope things will improve as these businesses have been the backbone of our economy for many years.
“Hopefully things will improve and one day soon The Montague Arms can open again.
“Our thoughts go out to the remaining staff who have now been affected by this announcement.”
DUP Alderman, Gareth Wilson, was also saddened to learn of the demise of a local business.
He said: “This is concerning news and obviously comes after a period of great uncertainty for the business community generally emerging from Covid-19 restrictions.
“Those in the hospitality sector have been under, in many circumstances, the most restrictive regulations and, whilst central Treasury support has been a lifeline to many businesses, it hasn’t been the answer to all of the Covid-related problems that the sector has faced.
“I wish the management well as they pursue other projects in the area and their presence in the town will be missed by many.”