Landlord ‘still angry’ two years after pub arson attack
- Credit: Nick Butcher/Martin Bennington
The ex-landlord of a coastal pub attacked by an arsonist says he is “still angry” about what happened, as the woman behind it admitted the attack.
Martin Bennington, 47, was landlord of The Tramway pub in Gorleston when Claire Boyle set fire to the ladies’ toilets on December 29, 2018.
She appeared in Norwich Crown Court on Thursday where she admitted the charge - having previously pleaded not guilty.
Mr Bennington said the fire “makes him angry to this day”, and that it sparked “the beginning of the end” of his brief tenureship at the pub.
He said: “The Tramway had a bad reputation when we took over in September 2018, and we pumped a lot of money into its refurbishment. But there was trouble from the start among those who weren’t happy with the changes.
“That evening in December was pretty much the beginning of the end for us.
“She set fire to the pub on a Saurday night when there were about 30 people inside, and there was all this smoke billowing out from the toilets.
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“Despite this, we were getting comments from people saying they wished “the whole place had burned down”. Everything got really nasty.
“We tried to stick it out for a few more months, but trade just never recovered and there was too much bad blood.”
Mr Bennington explained that “tens of thousands of pounds” had been lost because of this - and not just the £4000 damage to the toilets, as the court heard.
He said: “We had to shut for days in peak Christmas season, and during the refurbishment had to close again, without any compensation from the brewery. During that time, I still had to pay my staff and insurance costs.
“I left that pub in debt because of this.”
Mr Bennington also criticised Ms Boyle’s defence for “playing down” her actions.After leaving the Tramway in July 2019, he began renovating the Haven Bridge in Great Yarmouth - and plans to turn it into a guest house.
He said: “I’m glad I got out of it. I’m much happier here.
“The pub is a free house, so not tied to any brewery, and it has huge potential.”
Judge Maureen Bacon adjourned for reports and sentencing of Boyle will take place on January 12.