Tuesday, 01 December 2015

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One pub each month closing in Cumbria, says CAMRA

Pubs are closing at a rate of one a month as they battle to stay profitable in the face of rising prices and cheap supermarket booze.

One veteran of the pub trade who runs a country inn near Carlisle has warned that the traditional country village pub has already become just a memory in many areas of the country as the recession continues.

Philip Tuer, from the Solway branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said this week that the county is witnessing a steady decline in its number of pubs.

“We’re looking at the loss of about one pub per month in Cumbria,” said Mr Tuer.

“Some parts of the country have seen big pub losses but in Cumbria it’s steady.

“It’s down to a combination of factors, one being the lack of disposable income that most of us seem to be suffering from at the moment, and the rise in the cost of drinks.

“The last Labour government introduced annual increases, which was set at inflation plus 2 per cent, so that this year we’re looking at 5 per cent, which equates to about 10 p on the cost of a pint of beer.”

Mr Tuer named several Cumbrian pubs which have closed in recent years, in some cases leaving villages – such as Lanercost – with no local.

Carlisle, too, has seen more than its fair share of pubs close, he said.

Asked why it matters, Mr Tuer said: “It’s because we’re social beings: we like to go out and go to a place where we can spend time together.

“A pub is also somewhere you should be able to go to for a bit of peace and quiet and for a bit of crack.

“They can also be very useful as meeting places for local groups, whether it’s a leek club or people getting together to play darts or dominoes.”

One landlady who is feeling the pressure of the general downturn in trade is Liz Borradaile, 50, who has run the Corby Bridge Inn at Great Corby for the last 18 months.

Nestling next to the railway line, the pub and its beer garden offer spectacular views over rolling countryside.

“But it’s really, really hard at the moment,” said Liz, who has been in the pub business for the past 15 years.

It’s not just the economy, and the rising cost of utilities such as gas and electricity, she said. Customer are spending less time and money in pubs.

She said: “Last year, we raised £600 for a children’s charity; this year, it was £279. People can’t afford to put their hands in their pockets. I think it will get harder.

“Last night we had only ten people through the door. Quite a few villages in Cumbria don’t now have a local.”

Liz said the recently introduced smoking ban in pubs had also hit trade.

Despite the problems, and a working week that can see her clock up 90 hours, Liz still loves her job. “It will get better eventually – it has to because people will always want to go out. I love it here.”

Some people believe England should follow the example of the Scottish government, which is to adopt a minim price of 50p per unit of alcohol. Many health experts believe this will limit the harm done by freely and cheaply available booze now sold in many supermarkets.

Have your say

Lets just hold on a moment here. Supermarkets offer a service, if people want to go in and purchase things that is their freedom to do so.

There are a few inaccuracies going on here also. A pub and a supermarket pay identical levels of tax on their alcohol.

Both duty and VAT are the same. So the question one must ask, why does the price of a pint keep on increasing in the pub but reducing in the supermarkets?

Well believe it or not, its capitalism in action. Some people think of supermarkets as the cartels, but when it comes to booze the cartels are the breweries.

The breweries control the price of the pint, they own the pubs (most of them) and they collude to maintain pricing.

If a supermarket wishes to sell a product at a loss, there is nothing to stop a publican getting his trolley out and buying up all the booze and selling it in his pub.

Except... He will have an exclusivity contract with the brewery.

It's not that the breweries are making vast profits on their pub chains, they arent, its that they are stuck in old business models.

Companies like Tescos arent interested in the niceties. They drive down the price of pre-packed alcohol in a way that doesnt happen in the pubs.

Posted by Jim on 22 May 2012 at 12:45

Supermarkets have allot to answer for, not just in terms of Beer and Wine, but the demise of many other 'local' types of business. The sad truth is, the supermarkets need less profit per £ than smaller shops and pubs, and people always go for the cheap option while complaining that the local shops/pubs are no longer there - it's like that, and that's how it is, as they say.

I too would support the lowering of tax on draught beer or corked wine (not in that it's off, but the cork removed) while at the same time seeing a minimum pricing for off sales. If the local off-licence is selling beer & wine at the same price as the supermarkets, then this cannot be bad, and it may well help to keep smaller independent business turning over ££. But people are not going to like it.

Pubs (getting back on topic)offer much more than just a place to drink. They offer food, a meeting place, games etc. It used to be that 'big screen tv's' were only really in Pubs, now most people have them... The problem is that either pubs (not all) are not offering these extras, of people no longer see these as important, so the pub v's home drinking comes down to price.

Pubs maybe need to start to look at their own offerings, they need to get people through the door, I don't have the answers, but pubs need to be associated with more than just a drink. Offer a meeting place to social groups, Mother & Toddler in the mornings (serving Tea/Coffee etc) or OAP afternoons with some decent low priced meals , they need to diversify, when they do they will get more footfall, OK that doesn't mean profit, but without footfall there is no profit!

People blaming the smoking bad is nothing more that a smokscreen, it's a simple way of trying to justify something that is no longer socially acceptable, get over it. Smoking is banned in these places, in the next few years I think we will see a move to stop it in all public places - it's not going to be rescinded.

Over in Belle Vue, the Museum is a well supported 'local' - they have decent 'pub grub', friendly and have a good mix of customers. since they reinstated the divide between the 'bar' and 'room' it's got a much more family feel, the staff are friendly too.

Posted by PaulM on 21 May 2012 at 11:58

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