A COUPLE who spent £70,000 turning round a Colchester pub have been left heartbroken after being evicted by their landlords.

Frank and Carol Beardsell took over the Leather Bottle, in Shrub End, in February 2010, when the kitchen was condemned, the toilets were broken and wallpaper peeled off the walls.

The couple gave the 18th-century pub a £70,000 revamp and gradually got a following of young and old regulars.

But on Monday night they bid a tearful farewell, after building up rent arrears and other debts totalling about £10,000.

A temporary manager is expected to reopen the pub today while landlord Punch Taverns places the Grade II-listed building on the market.

It is the third Colchester pub Punch Taverns has put on the market, with the Drury Arms earmarked as a Sainsbury’s store.

Mrs Beardsell said: “It breaks my heart to leave it. I’m totally devastated.

“I’ve been here every single day for two years – all day and all night.

“I’m left with no job. My whole life savings have gone into this.”

The couple improved takings from about £2,000 a week when they took over to about £9,000 a week in the summer. But with income significantly less in the winter, they fell into rent arrears of about £10,000 and were taken to Colchester County Court by Punch in February 2011.

A sympathetic judge refused an eviction request and instead they successfully paid off their debts over the following three months.

But this winter they found themselves in the same situation and last month they were told they had 28 days to pay the money.

Mr Beardsell said attempts to communicate with Punch and pay it back in instalments were largely ignored.

He said one regular had even offered to pay off the deficit, but Mr Beardsell declined the offer.

With the deadline for payment 10.30am on Tuesday, the Beardsells served their last pints on Monday evening.

Pub regular Dave Ratcliffe, 21, said the couple had transformed the pub through events and a ban on swearing, and had the full support of the community.

He said: “Everyone is behind them because they’ve invested a lot into the pub and they have spent a lot of time getting the right customers in. Before they took over there was quite a bit of trouble, but they’ve run events that mean young and old come together and they’re really friendly. They did their best to make everybody feel welcome.”

A Punch Partnership spokesman said: “We have taken steps over recent months to resolve the issues around cashflow at the pub, but to no avail.

“We, therefore, took steps to repossess the pub.

“However, the licensees agreed to leave the pub of their own accord.”