Tuesday 19 November 2013

Not just a numbers game

We're often told that X number of pubs are closing every week, and I'm sure these figures are correct as far as they go: I have long wondered how far they do go though. Are the figures gross or net? Do they offset the number of new pubs and bars opening against the losses, or does the number refer to closures only without any account taken of new licensed premises? I'm fairly sure it's the latter. If so, are the prophets of doom talking down the state of pubs and bars in the country?

The Sparrowhawk pub sign
I've previously written about pubs we have lost locally this year, the Plough and the London, and I've also written about the new Marston's pub, the Guelder Rose, which opened recently. Another new real ale outlet is the Sparrowhawk, which has just opened in the former Tree Tops Hotel on Southport Old Road. The owners, Brunning and Price, state that it will be "a traditional pub restaurant serving high quality fresh food, along with a decent range of cask ales and wine". I've been told the range of cask ales is good, but with prices at around £3.60 a pint, it is clearly catering for foodies and special events, such as weddings and christenings, rather than the ordinary drinker.

Does this mean that locally we have a net loss of zero? In one way, yes, although there is certainly no exchange of like for like: both our new pubs are heavily food oriented, while those we lost were traditional pubs: this neatly illustrates the changing face of pub going. There must still money in pubs, seeing that the Guelder Rose was built entirely from scratch while the Sparrowhawk was a very expensive refurbishment, but neither will ever be a local. Considering the style of establishments that are opening and closing, I take the view that our net loss is indeed actually two.

Very few pubs close completely unmourned, so in a way the figures do reflect the level of losses of unique places where some people loved to spend their time, meet their friends and down a few beers that they presumably enjoyed, whether or not the beer was real. If you've lost your comfortable, old, local, traditional boozer, a new smart food oriented pub restaurant or bar can never be a replacement, so in answer to my question at the end of the first paragraph, I'd say no.


  1. The more beer blogs I read the more I start to think that this pub sentimentality, emotional attachment, grief and sense of loss is a genuine thing and not just an exaggerated and none proportional response.

    I think if CAMRA cared about the welfare of its members it would set up self help support groups in church halls for those affected by the loss of their local. With free tea and biscuits.

    They could then stand up and say "I'm Nev, I used to drink in the Dog and Duck until it got knocked into a Tesco Express" and others could say "Well done, thanks for sharing, we admire your strength" and such stuff.

    The absence of these groups is frankly a disgrace.

  2. Thanks, Bailey, that gives some kind of answer to one of the points I raised.
    CL: when all the decent pubs are gone, perhaps that will be CAMRA's ultimate role.

  3. You can count on me to support it and be there to open the biscuits. Not just to get 1st pick on the jammie dodgers, but out of altruism.


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