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Pubs

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telstarbox

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Thinking about pubs a lot recently. I'm lucky enough to live within staggering distance of several pubs:
an independent which sometimes has bands on
an old school 'local' run by a pubco
a 'free house' run by a London-only chain
and the local Wetherspoons.

All four serve ales, three do food, and all seem fairly busy as a result - crucially with younger as well as older customers. Often the beers are brewed locally which is also great to see. However I was out in Kent on a Saturday and found several pubs which had recently closed down. In my hometown there is now one pub where once there were four.

Although pubs are still closing, industry reports suggest that the number of pubs has now reached a sustainable level relative to the amount of custom. It's tragic to see a closed pub but do pubs deserve to die if they're not moving with the times?
 
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alxndr

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I wouldn't say that they deserve to die, but it's very understandable when some of them do struggle to the point of closure. Unfortunately not all is due to failure to "move with the times", although sometimes of course it is. The culture and people's priorities seem to have shifted.

I lived in a village which originally had two pubs, one of which closed about a decade ago before I was really old enough to remember, but it was largely due to the landlords getting old and not wishing to expand into the food market to keep their business afloat. They decided it was simply easier to close for good, and it's since been unlicensed and sold as a residential property.

The other pub I grew up and worked in. When my parents took on the lease in 1997 they established themselves as doing good, organic, locally sourced food, and was one of the first to do so outside of London. Gradually more and more pubs turned away from a wet led business style, and it became much harder to stand out from the crowd. By 2010 it was getting very difficult to keep up the custom with the financial climate, loss of the key selling point, and ever increasing rent. Some lunchtimes they only customers were a handful of locals drinking. Various things were tried (live music, theme nights etc), but nothing was enough to make it stand out, and their enthusiasm dwindled, so in 2012 they left.

I carried on working for the next landlord for a year. He struggled equally to stand out from the crowd, and it was a busy shift if food sales reached double figures. Again, theme nights, music, and even a refurbishment was tried, but to no avail, and 2 years later he gave in after haemorrhaging money into it. His poor people-skills probably didn't help at all, but the "good food" market was saturated (and he was far from the top of the crowd), and at £4.60 for the cheapest pint, the drink prices were too high to compete with any freeholds in the area for those who could travel. The latter point was largely the fault of the brewery and their price hikes for tied estates who have no choice but to buy their products.

Since he left, I believe it's been sold by the brewery to a company who have several businesses in the area, and are still doing a major refurbishment of the entire building. I wish them all the best of luck—and think they'll need it to pull it out of the bag—but it'll be a sore shame if the village looses it's last pub for good. I certainly miss it on the odd occasion I go back to visit.
 

61653 HTAFC

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There's still pubs around that really shouldn't still be open, an obvious example being the Wellington just up the road from Batley Wetherspoons. I want in there once when I first moved here to find a pub that would be showing the Wolves versus Huddersfield Town game and was in there all of 10 seconds. At 4pm on a Thursday they were playing really loud chavvy music to the 3 people and a dog in there, with a choice of Fosters, Stella and John Smiths on tap... I'd have left quicker if my feet hadn't stuck to the floor!
 

backontrack

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Personally, I think that pubs are a very British thing; we tend to overlook them (especially after a pint) but, well, which other countries have pubs like ours?

Of course, that doesn't mean that we should bail out every pub that's failing, or anything like that; no, not at all. But we should look at some of our most popular institutions and I think that we should start bringing more of a national focus back to pubs.
 

RichmondCommu

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As a member of CAMRA I often read about people being up in arms when a pub closes and yet in many cases the same people feeling sad about the closure of the pub haven't been there in years. However of course some pubs are successful but still close because of high rent increases.

In my mind if you serve a decent pint and you have a welcoming atmosphere more often than not the pub will not only survive but indeed thrive. And in my experience you don't have to sell much more than bar snacks in order to do well, although I accept that if you are a road side pub in the middle of nowhere selling food makes a big difference to your survival.
 
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djpontrack

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The pub I go into most is the Snug micropub at Carnforth station. There is always a friendly welcome and an excellent selection of cask ales. The other day I visited the No. 10 ale house at St Anne's on sea and they were also very friendly and had some good ales on. Micropubs tend to be more happy to see you than pubs from larger groups where the staff there are just doing their jobs and not really bothered.
 

alxndr

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@alxndr: In that case, is it as much the fault of breweries and pubcos when pubs fail?

I can only speak for the one I've known, but I certainly think that they could have done a lot more than they did to retain landlords, and by extension their own profits coming in from rent and beer sales. I'm sure someone from the brewery would have an alternative viewpoint though. It might not be the same for all breweries either, as I've heard rumour that they're losing interest in the rural pub market altogether.

When the other pub, a freehouse, was still open the bloke used to bring in his catalog and we would compare the prices. I can't remember the figures now as I was a child at the time, but there was a huge difference simply because they had the monopoly on us, yet had to be competitive to them.

Every year we found the rent went up, regardless of how the business was doing, or any other factors, such as the state of the building. Even the aspects which were their responsibility were a nightmare to get sorted, for example the exterior (a tatty paint job doesn't help get people through the door!), or the years spent begging for a new boiler and working radiators.

It's not all the fault of the breweries, the economic situation and changing attitudes towards pubs have a lot to answer for as well. Obviously breweries are businesses too, and not charities, but it certainly felt as though they were kicking us while we were down. If they had conceded to reduce the rent--perhaps to the amount they offered the subsequent landlord!--then I think we would have stayed. They seemed to give no thought to the long term, and just sold it off instead of pushing for new tenants, or retaining existing ones.

Once more though, remember I am probably biased.
 

Greenback

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When I were a lad, the pub really was the centre of the local community. Old men used to have a game of cards, there was a darts team on Friday nights which played in a healthy league comprising of two divisions. There were two distinct bars, each with their own atmosphere. harking back to the days of yore when most pubs had at least a public bar and a lounge bar.

Times have changed. Smartphones etc have made staying in contact with people easier than it's ever been before. There' no real need now to meet your mates in a pub and catch up. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook, text them, Skype and goodness knows what else! The result is that the pub in question is now far more of a restaurant than a pub, though at least it hasn't shut!

Other factors come into play as well. The price of going out for a drink compared to buying alcohol in the supermarket and drinking it at home is high. More people seem to be having a few friends around now rather than socialising down the pub. The decline of heavy industry has had an effect, and so has the ban on smoking.

Whatever else has helped lead to the situation we're in, there can't be any dispute that the custom for traditional pubs has declined over the last couple of decades. That's why so many have closed their doors for good. Things do seem to have accelerated in the last decade. Out of four pubs that were around when I moved here in 2007, there are now two, and one seems to be on it's last legs.

However, if the custom isn't there, that's that. Pubs can't stay open on wishes and dreams, they need hard cash.
 
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I prefer drinking Special Brew by the canal.

Sometimes as I walk to the station in the morning to start the long day ahead, and I pass a local drunk happily imbibing high-strength beer in the sunshine, I wonder if they've got life right and I've got it all wrong...

;)
 

TheEdge

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As a member of CAMRA I often read about people being up in arms when a pub closes and yet in many cases the same people feeling sad about the closure of the pub haven't been there in years. However of course some pubs are successful but still close because of high rent increases.

I did read a "brilliant" CAMRA article about them receiving little interest in re-opening a small town pub that had closed, seven years previously. Maybe it was time to accept that one is dead...
 

Iskra

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There's still pubs around that really shouldn't still be open, an obvious example being the Wellington just up the road from Batley Wetherspoons. I want in there once when I first moved here to find a pub that would be showing the Wolves versus Huddersfield Town game and was in there all of 10 seconds. At 4pm on a Thursday they were playing really loud chavvy music to the 3 people and a dog in there, with a choice of Fosters, Stella and John Smiths on tap... I'd have left quicker if my feet hadn't stuck to the floor!

There's a surprising number of terrible pubs clinging on around here.

Cellar Bar, by the station is how it should be done if you're not going to do food.

- - - - -
Heresy Alert:

I'm rarely sad to see a pub close down, because those that do deserve it. Many are filthy, unchanged since someone painted a wall in the late 80's and offer generic crap lagers and maybe John Smiths/Tetleys/Guinness a mix that was last an acceptable business model in 2001. And the Landlords all wonder why their pubs are quiet, clinging on to the belief that customers owe them their loyalty, no matter how stagnant 'the local' is allowed to become.

However, there are a growing number that are flourishing- the good ones- that are run with pride and passion. Leeds city centre is now awash with fantastic pubs, which I don't ever remember it being before. The good ones, are clean, have a good range of beer/cider/lager/wine and seem to be either: food pubs, or dedicated drinking pubs which are stealing customers from night clubs, they have some live music but still cater for those wanting to have a conversation too.
 
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Harbornite

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When I were a lad, the pub really was the centre of the local community. Old men used to have a game of cards, there was a darts team on Friday nights which played in a healthy league comprising of two divisions. There were two distinct bars, each with their own atmosphere. harking back to the days of yore when most pubs had at least a public bar and a lounge bar.

Times have changed. Smartphones etc have made staying in contact with people easier than it's ever been before. There' no real need now to meet your mates in a pub and catch up. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook, text them, Skype and goodness knows what else! The result is that the pub in question is now far more of a restaurant than a pub, though at least it hasn't shut!

Other factors come into play as well. The price of going out for a drink compared to buying alcohol in the supermarket and drinking it at home is high. More people seem to be having a few friends around now rather than socialising down the pub. The decline of heavy industry has had an effect, and so has the ban on smoking.

Whatever else has helped lead to the situation we're in, there can't be any dispute that the custom for traditional pubs has declined over the last couple of decades. That's why so many have closed their doors for good. Things do seem to have accelerated in the last decade. Out of four pubs that were around when I moved here in 2007, there are now two, and one seems to be on it's last legs.

However, if the custom isn't there, that's that. Pubs can't stay open on wishes and dreams, they need hard cash.


There's some truth in that, but it goes without saying that some young people will still meet up with their mates at pubs.
 

Greenback

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There's some truth in that, but it goes without saying that some young people will still meet up with their mates at pubs.

Of course, yes, I didn't mean to imply that they don't. I just think that there are fewer that do this now, just as fewer older people are going to pubs than used to be the case. Partly that's because social media is so readily available, but there are other factors too.
 

Greenback

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I do like some pubs which might be considered chavvy. As I've started playing darts again I can't really avoid some of them, though I'm not so keen on drinking Carlsberg or Foster's, which seems to be the draught lager of choice in such places, at least around here. Of course none have any proper ale!
 
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I do like some pubs which might be considered chavvy. As I've started playing darts again I can't really avoid some of them, though I'm not so keen on drinking Carlsberg or Foster's, which seems to be the draught lager of choice in such places, at least around here. Of course none have any proper ale!

No proper ale *at all*? Not even from your local large brewery? Around here you can always get something like Marstons Pedigree, at the very least!


(Oh please let's not turn this into a CAMRA discussion about what "proper ale" is!)
 

DarloRich

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No proper ale *at all*? Not even from your local large brewery? Around here you can always get something like Marstons Pedigree, at the very least!


(Oh please let's not turn this into a CAMRA discussion about what "proper ale" is!)

oh please lets ;) I have to confess that i quite like craft ale, if not the hipster beardyness that goes with it!

Many pubs don't offer anything other than cooking lager or smooth flow beer, oftne because they don't think they can shift the proper ale in the life it has. it is all about knowing your market.
 
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RichmondCommu

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oh please lets ;) I have to confess that i quite like craft ale, if not the hipster beardyness that goes with it!

Many pubs don't offer anything other than cooking lager or smooth flow beer, oftne because they don't think they can shift the proper ale in the life it has. it is all about knowing your market.

Funny that because I always had you as being a hipster with a beard :)
 

AJM580

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In the fine old city of Norwich (home) it was said that we had a pub for every day of the week and a church for every Sunday. Whether that's still true I don't know - but we have several pubs that are popular even now - Worth a visit is the "Fat Cat" (due west of the city centre) and closer to the centre the St Andrews Brewhouse
 

backontrack

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In the fine old city of Norwich (home) it was said that we had a pub for every day of the week and a church for every Sunday. Whether that's still true I don't know - but we have several pubs that are popular even now - Worth a visit is the "Fat Cat" (due west of the city centre) and closer to the centre the St Andrews Brewhouse

Both York and Norwich have over 365 pubs each.
 

sprinterguy

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No proper ale *at all*? Not even from your local large brewery? Around here you can always get something like Marstons Pedigree, at the very least!
Yeah, there's still a good few places around that stick to, as Darlorich says, the smoothflow of whatever variety and cooking lagers.

On another note, despite living in Birmingham, little more than thirty miles from the brewery, there's surprisingly few pubs that seem to serve Pedigree with any regularity: The Brasshouse, part of the Brindley Place development on Broad Street, seems to be the best bet for it, although one of my locals also has it on around 50% of the time.
 

D6975

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I used to live in a flat that had 7 pubs within a short stagger.
3 have been demolished and replaced by something else.
3 are boarded up and out of use.
1 is still open.
1 Wetherspoons opened.
 
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I used to live in a flat that had 7 pubs within a short stagger.
3 have been demolished and replaced by something else.
3 are boarded up and out of use.
1 is still open.
1 Wetherspoons opened.

When I moved into my flat 8 years ago there were 5 pubs very nearby:

1 closed, demolished and a Sainsbury's Local now stands on the site. :(

1 has a stop-start existence, regularly closing and changing hands. It's a dump.

The remaining 3 are in a good position:

1 is a good local pub, very popular in the summer with live entertainment.
1 is a cherished "locals pub" in a historic building

And the last one stands outside the gates of the Marstons brewery and is pretty much assured as their "brewery tap".
 

Greenback

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No proper ale *at all*? Not even from your local large brewery? Around here you can always get something like Marstons Pedigree, at the very least!

No, nothing on draught at all in my immediate vicinity. There is a Wetherspoons in the town centre which has the usual range of ales, but it's unbearable at the weekend because of the thumping music (must be a Lloyds).

The Felinfoel brewery seems to have given up even trying. Most of their pubs that are still open are in a 1970's time warp, and don;t seem to have had any money spent on them in decades. Even the pub that they own adjacent to their brewery didn't have any ale when I was in there a couple of weeks ago. Another of their pubs, by the railway station, shut it's doors a few months back, who knows if it will ever reopen.

It's a bit sad that a town like Llanelli, with such a strong tradition of brewing, is now a bit of an ale desert.

Both York and Norwich have over 365 pubs each.

I will have to move :lol:
 

planetf1

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Even more exciting is the increasing number of micropubs offering decent local microbrewery ale.... So much more variety than the common ales found in regular pubs


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Or other new fun places like 'the stable' locally with 50 or so ciders on offer


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

EssexGonzo

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I must have been lucky around here, few seem to have closed down save for one relatively rural pub that had a very similar proposition the two excellent pubs nearby.

And that's what I think a pub needs.....a very clear proposition targeting one or more group(s) of people with the aim of giving them what they want - as opposed to just being a room with beer in it or trying to be all things to all people.

Of the pubs within walking distance....

1 serves mainly lager and gimmick bottled stuff and is very successful with the football and builders crowd. Angie and Den style landlord/lady and they do it very well. At first glance you would say that this has not moved with the times but it has remained successful for the 20+ years I've lived around here.
1 for the more mature crowd - good beer, well kept and a warm and friendly landlady. No music, a little pricey. But often full.
1 wine bar with lager for the image conscious. A boring dark room next to Tesco but very very successful with the City boys and girls.
1 re-invented Gastropub with rubbish beer all round but again, for those worried more about image than actual quality.
1 real-ale pub with different beers all week, more traditional but attracting a welcome and surprising number of youngsters.
1 lager / wine bar previously owned by an ex-West Ham footballer which is the traditional fight venue. Serves Stella.
1 Wetherspoons relatively recently opened. Completely wide and random audience, roaring trade and good beer at amazing prices. Actually quite a nice ambience. (Guess which one I'm currently going to.....)

Oh, and The Sugar Hut. A temple of orangeness and fakery.

So....something for everyone and it's easy to see how the well run ones keep their pubs relevant to the local demand.
 
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