Our two local papers have been urging us all to shop (and drink) locally and help Southport's economy through the recession. One of them has gone even further in saying that Southport is almost recession-proof. This is quite an odd view, considering the number of boarded-up shops around the town centre, and the sharp increase in the local jobless figures.
As for pubs, I have never in my life seen so many with 'for sale' or 'to let' signs as I have over the last couple of years. The Shakespeare, which only recently reopened as a 'bard rock pub' [sic] with Harleys in the windows, is currently sporting a 'for sale' sign, although the pub is still open. Although not really beer outlets, Café Matisse and Owens bar on Hoghton Street are just two of a number of cafés and bars that have closed recently. I have also noticed that pubs that were heaving at weekends a year or so ago, are often much quieter now. It's even possible to get a table quite late on a Saturday evening in the Guest House ~ previously unheard of. Pubs and bars are clearly struggling. What's to blame? The government's tax escalator, predatory and incompetent pub companies, cheap supermarket alcohol, and the effects of the recession, including job insecurity and losses, must be among the main reasons.
What's to be done? Just shop (and drink) local, according to the Pollyannas in our local press. While I have no problem with this message, and in fact do most of my drinking and shopping locally, I'm disappointed that our papers just leave it at that. Where is their campaign against predatory PubCos, or the call for a freeze (or even cut) in beer tax? Or even against the fact that we taxpayers subsidise politicians' booze? Their faith in consumer expenditure as the tool to beat the recession locally is hopelessly misplaced, especially when disposable incomes are under serious pressure. Unfortunately their 'shop local' campaign itself doesn't really bear close scrutiny: one of the papers is printed in Oldham and the other in Knowsley. So much for supporting local businesses.
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