A PUB has closed unexpectedly, leaving 20 workers without jobs.

The Crown, in High Street, Manningtree, announced on New Year’s Day it would be closed until further notice.

Landlady Julie Bain, 52, who has run the pub for 21 years, has left due to ill health.

A sign on the pub’s front door reads: “Closed until further notice” and a message on its Facebook page read: “We are closed until further notice.”

Greene King refurbished the pub in May last year.

A spokesman for the brewery said: “The Crown is operated by an independent entrepreneur, who is solely responsible for the employment of all team members and the operation of the pub.

“Sadly, due to ill health, Ms Bain has decided to leave the Crown and we understand she closed the pub on January 1.

“We are looking for new tenants and hope to re-open the pub as soon as possible.”

The pub, which dates to the 17th century, describes itself as the “most popular family venue in the area”.

Jenine Collier, chairman of Manningtree’s chamber of trade, said: “It is a tragedy it has closed. It brings people into Manningtree.

“I think Julie, who has kept it running for 21 years, deserves a lot of respect.

“The economy has been up and down, Manningtree has gone through lots of changes and she has kept that business going. It is a great shame – she is a great loss as a businesswoman to this town.”

Customers have expressed their shock.

Ian Bacon said: “I feel for all the staff.”

Carlton Howe said: “The whole situation should have been handled better with more communication to the staff.

“Employers have a duty of care towards staff.”

Michael Watson said: “My thoughts are with the staff who have looked after us so well over the years.”

In August last year, Ms Bain became Greene King’s longest serving landlady.

At the time she said: “I plan to stay for as long as possible. I love it here.”

The Gazette was unable to contact Ms Bain yesterday.