Thursday 29 October 2020

Mass pub extinction imminent

It is bad news that the pubs in Lancashire and Merseyside have been forcibly closed, even though similar businesses like restaurants are allowed to stay open. This is despite the fact that pub licensees have done everything asked of them to make their venues COVID-secure. It feels as though pubs are being made a scapegoat for the pandemic.

In my last job, some colleagues used to be amazed that I would go out at weekends into Southport town centre or, on occasion, into Liverpool. 'You'd never catch me doing that,' they'd say. They seemed to think the town centre at weekends was like something out of an old Wild West movie. I wasted my breath stating that I always felt safe and rarely saw any trouble much beyond an occasional argument.

I feel that such misconceptions have made pubs and bars easy targets for government measures that are intended more to make a point to the populace than to control the virus. The leader of Pendle council said as much to the government official with whom he was discussing Tier 3 restrictions: the official agreed.

In other words, it looks as though pubs have been closed to teach us a lesson: CAMRA and other organisations have asked for the evidence that pubs are the cause of spreading the infection, but to date have received no reply.

CAMRA Chief Executive Tom Stainer said: “Even if pubs serving food can stay open, the restrictions will see an even bigger reduction in footfall and trade, making businesses unviable. The Government urgently needs to increase the financial support available to all pubs to help them pay staff wages, meet fixed costs and to make up for lost business.

“We also need a long-term support package for the beer and pubs industry covering not just the period of the Tier 3 restrictions, but also the weeks and months that follow as pubs and breweries try to get back on their feet.

“This is a real sink or swim moment for local pubs and the breweries that serve them – without proper support, we risk thousands of local businesses that are now under additional restrictions not surviving beyond Christmas.”

► This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Older articles on local pubs are here.

Monday 19 October 2020

Tracks Of My Tiers

The Tier 3 restrictions that have been imposed upon Merseyside and Lancashire mean that drink-based pubs have now been closed for a second time this year, while food pubs can sell you drinks but only when you are having a meal. Some pubs are now offering takeaway and delivery services. Local CAMRA members have been telling me which pubs and breweries in our area that are doing this.

  • The Grasshopper, 70 Sandon Road, Southport. Delivery every day of real ales, ciders and wine. Order via Facebook. Tel: 01704 569794.

  • The Tap & Bottles, 19A Cambridge Walks, Southport, are doing beer deliveries. Order via Facebook. Tel: 01704 544322.

  • The Beer Den 65/67 Duke Street, Southport. Takeaways on Thursday to Saturday, plus deliveries. See their Facebook page. Tel: 01704 329007.

  • The Parker Brewery, Unit 3, Gravel Lane, Banks, Southport say “anyone interested in takeaways or deliveries, get in touch”. Tel: 01704 620718.

  • The Rock the Boat Brewery, 6 Little Crosby Village. L23 4TS are doing takeaways. Tel: 07727 959356.

  • The Dog & Gun, 233 Long Lane Aughton, L39 5BU. Takeaway real ale, cider and food. Tel: 01695 421999

  • The Beer Station, 3 Victoria Buildings, Victoria Road, Formby, have said they intend to instal two extra fridges for bottled beer takeaway. Tel: 01704 807450.

  • The Cricketers, 24 Chapel Street, Ormskirk, is doing a food and drink takeaway service. Tel: 01695 571123

  • Cheshire Lines, King Street, Southport, say, “Sunday delivery service so get your roast & cask orders in by messaging us, calling 07787 406 504 or phoning 01704 807710 on Sunday”.

I've tried to ensure these details are correct. If any other local pubs and breweries are doing deliveries or takeaways, tell the local branch of CAMRA via the contact details on the CAMRA Southport & West Lancs website for inclusion in a future column in the local papers.

You can order on-line from other beer businesses using CAMRA's Brew2You website which aims to support pubs and breweries through these difficult times. This site connects you with local businesses selling great beer, and perhaps other drinks too. Your money will be paid in full to the businesses concerned, with only 5% admin fee to cover costs, thereby making this service completely free to the businesses using it.

► This is adapted from an article that I wrote for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Older articles on local pubs are here.

Monday 12 October 2020

Death by a thousand cuts

At the time of writing, the general view is that pubs in our area (the Liverpool City Region: Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral), are going to be closed in the latest measures against COVID-19. As a campaigning organisation, CAMRA has written to the government demanding that they release the evidence that pubs, along with other hospitality outlets, are hotbeds of coronavirus infection. To date, no reply has been received. 

My own experience as a regular pubgoer is that pubs are taking their responsibilities for the health and safety of their staff and customers very seriously: they have to because they do not want their businesses to be closed down. The restrictions currently in place have significantly changed the experience of going to the pub, and have also reduced the numbers of people they can take in.

Most pubs are small, individual businesses that are not supported by the pub company that owns the building. Unlike in the past when most pubs were run by breweries who had a salaried manager on site, nowadays the pub is a stand-alone business with the licensee renting the premises from the owning company. The success or failure of these businesses rests entirely upon the licensee. If a pub fails, the owning company simply has a valuable piece of property to sell for redevelopment, while the licensee loses everything.

One pub landlady told me a few days ago that she is slowly going bankrupt during the current restrictions; another enforced pub closure will only speed up that process. Hospitality accounts for a huge amount of employment in our economy, and pubs provide a valuable antidote to isolation, especially nowadays when the number of single-occupied households is at its highest ever.

Closing pubs is an easy fix for a government that wishes to show that it is 'doing something'. It is not enough to do something: it is essential to do the right thing, especially when thousands of small businesses and jobs are at stake.

► This is adapted from an article that I wrote for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Older articles on local pubs are here.