THE LANDLORD of York’s smallest pub is set to stay on for another six years, after the success of a public campaign to save The Blue Bell.

A petition was launched in September to keep John Pybus as landlord of the Grade II-listed pub after it was revealed owners Punch Taverns wanted to bring in a manager rather than a landlord.

York Press:

John Pybus celebrates signing a six-year lease at The Blue Bell. Picture: Frank Dwyer

Regulars and supporters of the unique and historic pub felt a manager would change the pub’s atmosphere and more than 6,500 people signed a petition urging Punch Taverns to reconsider.

On Thursday, Mr Pybus thanked everyone who supported him, and announced he had signed a new six-year lease, ending "the most stressful year of my life", after he had spent "tens of thousands of pounds in legal costs".

He said: "Over a year ago I used new legislation in order to get a fair deal for rent and purchasing with the owners of the building. Six months in, having explored every legal avenue and having exhausted all my funds, I gave up.

"I sat down on a Friday night and let the regulars know that The Blue Bell was to become a managed house. I’ll never forget the looks on the faces of people who have drank in the same little local pub for three, four, five - and in ‘Chef Geoff’s’ case, six - decades. I told a few hundred people face to face in the first week before The Press ran a great story and I then saw the same look on the individual faces of an entire community."

The story was picked up by other outlets and Mr Pybus said it "really blew up on social media", while the visitors to the pub wore "a unique expression of shock, pain, upset, heartbreak, anger, frustration", through concerns a "weird but wonderful part of our shared culture was about to disappear".

He said: "But in every single face there was also a defiance that I’ve never witnessed up close and en masse before. One thing was clear: I might have given up, but York wasn’t going to."

"The response was phenomenal and fierce. It was shared far and wide. Yorkies were up in arms. The local beer community was outraged and CAMRA branches from all over the country were sharing it amongst their membership. Tourists who have kept in touch signed and shared because The Blue Bell is the only reason they holiday in York and other publicans – my local and regional competitors – shared it amongst their family, friends and regulars."

York Press:

John Pybus celebrates signing a six-year lease at The Blue Bell

The story also appeared in the national press, and came to the attention of CEO of Punch Taverns, Clive Chesser - who visited the pub personally as a customer then spoke to Mr Pybus - and which led to a new deal being struck.

He said: "The Blue Bell is a weird little place, and the only way it can stay that way is by keeping it out of the hands of corporate managers."

Mr Pybus said he had spent "tens of thousands of pounds in legal costs", and some people had asked him about starting a crowdfunding campaign to help cover the fees.

He said: "As much as I appreciate the very generous offers, The Blue Bell is a business and as such the best way for you to help with the legal costs is to come in and buy a pint, have a natter and then have another. There’s only one condition - let’s banter about something other than leases, PubCos and Brexit, they’re all wearing thin."

York Press: