A DEESIDE pub faces the prospect of being sold without it ever have opened amid its new owner having to pay business rates and Council Tax despite the pandemic.

Local business owner Shaun Ketley bought the Halfway House in Connah's Quay in February after 18 months of it being closed.

But days after he was given the keys to the pub, the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed and the pub has been forced to remain shut.

But unlike other pubs and businesses across the country, Mr Ketley has been denied business rate relief by Flintshire Council and is even being forced to pay Council Tax.

He has also missed out on a business rate relief associated £25,000 council grant.

To compound matters, just weeks after purchasing the pub, it suffered a break in whereby damage occurred which has cost Mr Ketley £20,000 to repair, on top of the £25,000 he has spent in renovations.

The financial black hole has left Mr Ketley facing the very real prospect of having to put the pub back on the market before it was ever reopened to the public.

He told the Leader: "I've never given up on anything in my life, but I'd say there's an 80 per cent chance now that the pub won't ever reopen and I put it back on the market.

"It'd be a huge shame as I've had so much positive feedback about how nice the pub looks now and the fact people can't wait to come in - but Flintshire Council doesn't seem to care about the pub's plight at all.

"I've been refused business rate relief because I wasn't trading at the time Covid-19 hit, but I was weeks away from opening the doors to the public.

"It just seems unfair to make me pay £2,200 worth of business rates a month for a business that isn't even trading - the council can't have it both ways.

"They told me even if I'd been trading for just one before the lockdown I'd be entitled to all the financial support - it's hugely frustrating."

And Mr Ketley says recent notification that he has to pay Council Tax on the building is just another hammer blow.

He added: "There's no furniture in the building or anything like that, so I can't believe the council is making me pay Council Tax.

"I'm facing bankruptcy before the business even started trading."

Business Support Grants are administered by Flintshire Council on behalf of Welsh Government.

And Flintshire Council said the criteria guiding decisions on eligibility for the grants specify that businesses must be trading on or before March 20 to be eligible for support from this fund.

A spokesperson said: "Business Support Grants are administered by the Council on behalf of Welsh Government. Although the owner of the Halfway House pub is not currently in receipt of retail relief, he has been advised that once his business opens he will be eligible for full retail relief for 2019/20.

"However to provide assistance at this time his business rate payments have been deferred to September. A member of Flintshire’s Business Development team has made contact with the owner to discuss his support needs going forward and to offer support with applying for other grants available."

But Mr Ketley says the deferral of the payment of the rates will not help him in the long run.

He said: "I've still got to pay it in full, and we're nearly in July now and there's no sign of pubs in Wales being allowed to open.

"It was hard enough for pubs to make money before Covid-19 struck but it's going to be even more difficult now with the social distancing measures that will have to be in place and things like.

"I just can't see how or why the council thinks deferring the payments until September will help me.

The Leader:

Mr Ketley has also called on the Welsh Government to ease lockdown restrictions to let pubs reopen.

He said: "We're 15 minutes away from Chester and pubs there are going to be reopening there in a couple of weeks.

"The Welsh Government is lagging behind when it really doesn't need to - they should be putting trust in pub owners that we will reopen in a safe manner with all the required measures in place."

Alyn and Deeside Senedd Member Jack Sargeant said: "I have been actively supporting Mr Ketley for some weeks and have written to Flintshire CC calling on them to show discretion when dealing with his case.

"Small businesses need support and this business should be supported. I will be contacting the council once again today (Friday) and asking them to reconsider and support this important local venue."

Mr Ketley has been urged to set up a fundraising page for the pub, but says he doesn't want to money off members of the community.

He said: "I don't want to people's hard earned money off them for money I feel I am entitled to from the council.

"It's soul destroying having to come to work everyday to make the renovations with the sinking feeling it could all be for nothing."

The Council says it has worked with local businesses to ensure they receive the grants and reliefs they are entitled to as quickly as possible and the total relief awarded so far is £15.50m

A spokesperson added: "We have also ensured that small businesses in Flintshire, especially those who do not pay Business Rates, are aware of the Welsh Government Economic Resilience Fund grant support. Details of the funding can be found on the Business Wales web site together with information on other support that is available. https://businesswales.gov.wales/coronavirus-advice/

"For advice and support locally businesses can contact our Business Development team at Business.Dev@flintshire.gov.uk"