A SOUTHAMPTON pub and music venue could face closure within just eight weeks.

The Hobbit in Bevois Valley Road opened its doors more than 25 years ago but landlady Stella Roberts says business rates are “crippling” the venue.

Now Ms Roberts – who rents the building from Punch Taverns but has to pay repairs herself – has launched a crowd-funding appeal to raise £7,500 to pay for essential floor and roof work.

She said: “I’ve always looked after the maintenance but it’s just such a big old building.”

“Our rates were set in 2008, at our peak time, but since then income has fallen consistently – and the rates haven’t been adjusted.”

Ms Roberts added: “We’ve had two financial crashes and now Brexit. People just don’t have any money. The turnover has gone down particularly in the last year or so.”

She said that students, who used to be some of her best customers, were not spending so much since the increase of tuition fees to £9,000.

“We used to see swathes of them up the valley but they don’t go out any more,” said Ms Roberts.

“I have no objection to paying business rates, but things like the new Westquay restaurants are taking business away from us - but the council are still asking for more.”

Ms Roberts said she has employed a firm to negotiate with the council which has also imposed a additional late-night levy of £1,555.

She said she has also asked landlords for a rent reduction – but so far they have refused.

She admitted that the council had given them a rate reduction of £1,000 but that was not enough.

It comes just weeks after iconic venue The Joiners had to beg the public for donations to pay for repairs.

Bevois ward councillor Derek Burke said: “We need these independent venues - it’s hard enough for up and coming musicians to get gigs as it is.

“I have made representations to the council on Ms Roberts behalf.”

As previously reported Ms Roberts has been fighting a long legal battle with the Saul Zaentz Company, which the pub doesn’t have the right to use The Hobbit name.

More than 30,000 people joined a campaign to support it in 2012, but Ms Roberts said the battle is still ongoing. She said: “They keep sending us a licence agreement, then we send it back saying it’s not appropriate, then it’s another six months til we hear from them again.

“Hollywood haven’t crippled us – but Southampton City Council might.”