CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale has launched a website to support its ‘Save Our Pubs’ campaign following a report by the Beer and Pub Association. It says: “CAMRA’s own research shows that 84% of people believe a pub is as essential to village life as a shop or post office. Despite their popularity pubs are still under threat and need our help.” The Morning Advertiser gives the shocking details from the report:
The latest closure figures from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) reveal that pubs are closing 20 times faster than three years ago. The figure of 39 closures a week in the last six months of 2008 compares to 36 a week for the first six months of the year. Last year, 1,973 pubs shut — 40% up on 2007 levels.
Suburban community pubs have been hit the hardest, closing at the rate of 19-a-week while town centre pubs have been closing at the rate of eight-a-week and rural pubs at 13-a-week. [Link]
I find it difficult to visualise figures like that, but every single pub closure means jobs lost and in many cases it also means the loss of a community asset. The Southport Drinker has been cataloguing pub closures (and re-openings) in Southport and West Lancashire recently and seeing the list of pub names makes the scale of the problem easier to appreciate.
Maybe we are becoming a nation of stay at home drinkers and maybe we want it that way, but in the end this trend will start to feed off itself. The great thing about pubs is their diversity and that’s what is disappearing. Quality won’t win a price war and no doubt the pubs that won’t be shutting down on economic grounds are the ones shifting huge volumes of fizz and alcopops: the very ones the government blames for encouraging antisocial behaviour and street violence. As that happens more people will prefer to drink at home and so more community pubs will close and so the cycle goes on.
CAMRA’s campaign could well be the most important since it was founded in the early 1970s to defend ‘Real Ale’ from the spread of the fizzy, bland, chemical brews then available. And it’s not just important for beer lovers. What the loss of many of these pubs will bring about is a fundamental change in the nature of our towns, villages, and city centres. That affects everyone.