#WeLoveTheCoach campaign wins celebrity support as hunt for new landlords begins
PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:14 06 March 2014
An online campaign to raise awareness of the plight of one of Norwich’s oldest pubs has won celebrity support.
News that the Coach and Horses in Bethel Street is in search of new landlords sparked the Twitter movement #WeLoveTheCoach, after Tracey Moore and David O’Reilly, who have been in charge for three-and-a-half years, moved on because of spiralling costs.
Organisers hope that the hashtag campaign will reinforce to owners Greene King just how loved the pub is by its loyal regulars and visiting stars from the nearby Theatre Royal.
The message has spread round the world since being highlighted by Hollywood star and former Theatre Royal youth company member Sam Claflin, whose message was retweeted more than 1,150 times.
Rachel Lloyd, a regular and former barmaid who now works at the Theatre Royal, started the campaign to highlight the work of the departing landlords in creating a special atmosphere at the pub.
“For the customers, it’s a home from home. Over the years it’s become a little bolt hole for all the people at the theatre,” she said.
“It has a renowned reputation among touring companies, and for celebrities in the show, they know they can go to the coach without being bothered.”
Ms Lloyd said the online campaign had “exploded”, thanks to retweets of support from Les Dennis, panto star Sheila Ferguson and former footballer Darren Eadie, but since Mr Claflin’s help, messages had been arriving from as far as the US.
Last month Greene King said the current tenants would be moving out to concentrate on their other business, and that it would invest “a significant sum” in redeveloping the pub when new tenants were found – and Ms Lloyd said she was looking forward to the brewery “keeping its promise”.
Ms Moore, who took over the Coach and Horses with Mr O’Reilly in June 2010, said the couple had decided to leave because the business was no longer viable.
“It wasn’t affordable to run because of the rising rent and beer prices. If we had passed the costs on to customers we would have been charging about £5.20 for a pint of Guinness, which is just not competitive,” she said.
The couple took over the Railway Tavern in Framingham Earl a year ago without brewery ties, but Ms Moore said the plan had not been to leave the Coach and Horses.
She said: “We wanted to run the two of them as successful businesses. To leave is a financial relief, but emotionally it’s heartbreaking.”