|The Plough in Crossens in the process|
of demolition. It's now houses.
In this area, we have had a number of pub closures after the pubco concerned had declared that the business was no longer viable. They are probably right when the finances are viewed through skewed prism of their highly flawed, debt-ridden business model with high rents, massive mark-ups on drinks, etc. It is not their greed or, perhaps more accurately, not just their greed: they have massive debts to service. They will never be declared bankrupt, although by any sensible measure they are in real terms; as J. Paul Getty said: "If you owe the bank $100 that's your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem."
Two pubs in this area have suffered declines with lengthy closures punctuated with short periods of being open while some temporary manager takes over, or some unfortunate mug is robbed of their life savings by unrealistic business projections - something I have heard from a number of licensees with whom I've chatted over the years. Both have been sold on by their pubco, in one case to a family, and another to small chain of pubs in the Merseyside area. Free of the tie, they seem to be doing all right. In one, I was told that the pub could not survive as part of the big pubco that had previously owned it, but it was doing quite well as a true free house. The prices were lower too.
I am fully aware that there are many factors, of which pubco mismanagement is merely one, behind the decline in pub use, but if the viability of a pub is assessed by the people who want to sell the site for redevelopment and thus chip a tiny amount off their mountain of debt, I think it's reasonable to view their calculations with some scepticism.
It must not be forgotten that the pubco business model is one that does best by failure: they hit the jackpot when a former pub is redeveloped, whereas it may a long slow process to gain a small amount of profit from a pub which, by their lights, is on the cusp on unviability. The big pubcos, Wetherspoons excepted, are property companies, not beer businesses. Their priorities are determined accordingly.