HISTORIC Southampton pub The Grapes has shut blaming soaring costs, cut-throat competition and the recession.

The popular Oxford Street boozer, which featured in the smash hit film Titanic which starred Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, has seen business dwindle from 3,000 pints a week in 2007 to just 830.

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Landlords Jacqui and Trevor Nesbitt have called last orders after eight years because they cannot compete with rival pub chain JD Wetherspoon selling beer for 99p a pint.

Jacqui and Trevor have to buy their beer for £1.57 a pint from Enterprise Inns, the giant pub company which owns the building and 7,000 other UK pubs, and sell it at £3.15. The couple, who were married but are now divorced, claim an appeal to the pub company to cut either the rent or the beer prices to allow them to compete fell on deaf ears, leaving them no choice but to call time once and for all.

A total of 12 people were laid off as a result of the closure, at midday yesterday.

Furious at their treatment, Trevor has also vowed to protest by camping outside the pub.

He told the Daily Echo: “Last week we had our lowest week for seven years. We took £5,100 in turnover when we were taking £15,000 or more before. Trade has plummeted. The profit margin would not pay the rent or the staff.

“So, we went to the pub company to ask if they could do something to enable us to be reasonable on our pricing, because in the bad times you need to drop your prices and your profit margins to make the business work.

“They said they didn’t think they would be able to help us. When we told them we would shut the doors, they said they would still charge us for the rent, but we haven’t got an income so we can’t pay.”

Jacqui said: “In five years the rent has soared from £26,000 to more than £80,000. So, we’ve closed the doors and put a sign in the window. We have felt like we had a noose around our neck, terrified we can’t pay them. Now we will go into receivership.”

The pair, who abandoned a planned sale of the business for £285,000 late last year, are fuming after learning Enterprise Inns boss Ted Tuppen earns £634,000 a year.

Trevor said: “I want to fight for small businesses that are suffering because of big business. I am going to sit outside 24 hours a day until he resigns. Somebody needs to stand up to these companies and I am going to do it, even if it kills me.”

According to city legend The Grapes, established in 1856, was where six crew members of the Titanic were drinking when they forgot the time and missed the ill-fated liner’s maiden sailing.

Enterprise Inns declined to comment on the situation.