Our community’s traditional pub, the Dubliner, has had a pretty rough time in recent years. Six years ago, it was the victim of a cruel arson attack that saw it forced to close its doors for over 18 months. In the summer of 2006, around a dozen people were inside the building when it was tragically set alight. It took a team of more than 85 fire fighters to tackle the burning inferno, which was visible several miles into the distance. No one was ever charged over the appalling crime, which was a massive blow to the pubs owners who underwent month after month of gruelling refurbishment work. Luckily the owner, Paddy Finn, had adequate pub insurance, as fixing the damage was costly. “The place was gutted and we had to start from scratch,” Mr. Finn told the Birmingham Mail back in 2008. It was estimated at the time that the works cost insurers more than half a million pounds.
Now, four years after its re-opening, the Dubliner is at the centre of a new controversy. This time the altercation is between Mr. Finn and the city council; according to them, Mr. Finn owes around £14,000 in “unpaid business rates” from the pub, as well as unpaid council tax on the flat above the pub.
However, Mr. Finn claims that bailiffs compromised him and his livelihood when they threatened to take the fixtures and fittings from the bar area unless he paid four instalments of £2,000. It seems that public support is erring on the side of Mr. Finn. The pub landlord’s boxing friends, Joe Egan and Frankie Gavin, are said to be joining him in a protest against the council at a meeting with authorities this week.
Local residents will no doubt sympathise with Mr. Finn, who says his debt had built up since the pub’s 2008 reopening. His insurance may have covered the damage of the fire, however, it appears that 18 months out of business did nothing to ease Mr. Finn’s situation. The landlord, who has run the Dubliner for over 18 years since it rebranded from indie venue the Barrel Organ, said that a lot of the fuss with the council was down to an in-house mix-up they had made with his business rates. “I had been paying £1,515 per month for six years but then I was told to pay £800,” he said. “During that mix-up there was one missed payment and suddenly the bailiffs were called. The guy turned up with a white removal van, no warrant, and demanded money, four times.”
The Dubliner’s building has long been considered a cultural icon in the local area. In the 70s, its was trading as the Barrel Organ, a popular drinking venue. During the 80s and early 90s the venue had emerged to become a thriving alternative live music hotspot, which became well known for showcasing new talent. Extremely popular on the Birmingham gig circuit, the Barrel Organ was frequented by cool rock ‘n’ roll kids and was much loved for its “flexible” drinking hours.
It is no wonder, therefore, that Mr. Finn appears to have so much support from local people. The building is and always has been a symbol of local culture, important to the lives of those living around it. It is clear that many generations of local residents have enjoyed the comforts and services of the building – be it the Barrel Organ or the Dubliner – and to see it in trouble is heartbreaking for many.
A step further
Lucky for the locals, Mr. Finn won’t give up without a fight. He said of the council’s bailiff, “he put me and my family through stress and now the business is on the brink.” He has taken his protests a step further by launching an official complaint to the police over the matter, and to try to get the council to pay back the £8,000 he said was taken by the bailiff. However, the council said it had issued a court summons to recover debt totalling around £13,500 that had been accrued over many years. The council also maintains its claim that the bailiff was well within his right to recover funds.
The case continues.