A BUSY canal-side café in Stroud is to close under current management next month because of a disputed rent rise.

The Lockkeeper’s is a popular cafe bar which also hosts evening events and has built up a loyal customer base since opening in 2011.

In 2012, owner Wendy Townsend was named Trader of the Year in the Stroud Town Council Annual Awards.

Now, following a dispute with landlord Luciano Magalotti over a rent increase, the business is to close under current ownership next month with the last day of trading being June 29.

“I put a lot of work and into this café, which was a wreck when I bought the lease in 2011,”said Ms Townsend. “But when I approached the landlord in September 2013 to increase the lease for another five years, I was told the rent would increase to more than we could afford.”

Ms Townsend took out a three-year lease on the property in 2011, which ends on June 30.

In a statement, Mr Magalotti said the lease was given on the understanding that the first nine months would be rent-free because of the extent of the repair work required on the building.

He said the remainder of the lease was given “well-below market value” but says it was agreed that after the three years expired, the rent would return to its full rate.

The statement said: “This was agreed on the basis that after the three years expired, the rent would return to full market value.

“Ms Townsend has been given the opportunity to enter into another three-year lease at fair market value, but has declined.

“As is Ms Townsend’s prerogative, she has chosen to decline her lease, and as such the Lockkeeper’s is currently being marketed for a new tenant as of July 1, 2014.

“I wish Ms Townsend every success in any future endeavours.”

Ms Townsend’s son Lee, 34, who also works for the business, said the increase amounts to a 320 per cent rise in rent which they cannot afford.

He claims the increase is “over the market rate”.

“The situation is very sad,” he added.

Customer Diane Basterfield said: “I’m shocked. I feel really sorry for the owner.

“The cafe is delightful, with very nice interior and delicious cakes.”

Stroud District Council spokesman Dave Marshall said: “We’re sorry to see any business close.

“The Lockkeeper’s is in a busy and attractive canal-side location, so we would expect that someone will take the opportunity it offers.”