JASPER Carrott is backing a campaign to save a popular village landlord from being forced out of the pub he has run for seven years.
Ayman Zahran is the publican of The Red Lion in Claverdon which he took over from failing tenants in 2009.
The 49-year-old employs 15 staff and has seen the pub receive a string of top reviews. He is described by villagers as an ‘integral’ part of the community.
Last year the Egyption-Italian national worked alongside the owners of the freehold, Enterprise Inns plc, to arrange an extension to his lease.
But at the last minute they withdrew their offer and announced with no explanation they were terminating his lease agreement.
Mr Zahran told the Observer: “I feel I have been stabbed in the back. The news has really upset me.
“I have worked so hard and the pub is a great success. It is the hub of the community and we are unique.
“We look after everyone who comes here. An example is a 92-year-old man who visits each week. We look after him the whole time and then even take him home. This isn’t a one-off case, we help all the locals. If the pub goes then there wouldn’t be that kind of support for people here.”
Residents have started a petition urging Enterprise Inns to reconsider. It has so far gained around 700 signatures.
Some have even said they will help him buy the pub if he does have to vacate it when the lease is up in September.
Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi has waded in on the dispute and contacted the chief executive of Enterprise Inns to try and get his support.
And comedian Jasper Carrott, who lives nearby and has been to the pub on a number of occasions, is also backing the campaign.
He said: “I am supporting Ayman as it will be a huge disappointment to lose this very talented entrepreneur to dubious circumstances.
“Unless these circumstances are sorted out, morally and fairly, there will be a huge backlash of discontent from angry clientele and the future of the pub will be in danger.
“I ask Enterprise Inns to seriously reconsider their approach to this matter and treat it with the utmost consideration.”
Enterprise Inns says it had decided not to offer Mr Zahran a new lease agreement after ‘reviewing all of the available options’.
A spokesman said: “We have acted fully within the terms of the lease by serving six months’ notice to Mr Zahran and we intend to offer to work with him and find an alternative Enterprise site for his restaurant in Warwickshire.
“We would like to reassure the residents of Claverdon and the surrounding areas that the Red Lion will remain as a licensed premises and hope they continue to visit.”
The petition urging the company to renew Mr Zahran’s lease can be signed in the pub and local shops until mid-April.