Pub Closures: Why It Matters

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.

4 thoughts on “Pub Closures: Why It Matters

  1. Pubs have been with us since Roman times and an institution doesn’t last for nearly 2000 years without learning to adapt. The question is, whether the current changes are too difficult to sustain.

    Pubs have always been more than places to buy a drink. They were community meeting points after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, rudimentary banks, unofficial employment exchanges and venues for the meeting of friendly societies. This loss of focus in communities is at the heart of Prince Charles’ Pub Is The Hub Campaign.

    Not only this, but we’re also losing the pub signs which commemorate religion royalty, heroes and the odd villain. Together they provide a pictorial history of Britain in the High Street. Their loss is like someone emptying the National Gallery.

    Let’s hope that the pubs that have survived war, religious uphearval and changing times don’t now collapse under economic pressure.

    Elaine Saunders
    Author: A Book About Pub Names
    Complete Text
    It’s A Book About….blog


  2. There has been adaptation by many pubs. There are many that do not need to do very much as their offer is well targeted and supported by their customer base.

    Overall the problem of most pubs is simply footfall.

    Research says that people visit pubs increasingly less.

    The main focus of the cause of the decline for the trade is and continues to be drink purchased in the off trade and consumed at home. The price debate can only be seen as immensely imbalanced.

    Take home drink produces a very marginal unit profit margin for most supermarkets. Their overhead associated drink with its total retail sales is disproportionately small compared with an on-license premise.

    So there are two models at work – “low cost and margin high volume” versus “high cost and margin low volume”. The latter therefore has to offer significantly much more in way of added value experience to compete.

    The first need that most pubs deliver is a place to meet other people. Many people now meet on the internet and have discussions, chats and even relationships (?) a lost group.

    Pubs must fill or create that social interaction need first. Do that and they will at least stand a chance.


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