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Not just 'bad' pubs closing down
A SWINDON pub expert has hit back at claims only the bad locals are closing, which were made by the editors of a book regarded by many as a bible for pub-goers.
The Good Pub Guide editors’ Alisdair Aird and Fiona Staple predict in their 2014 book that between 2,500 and 4,000 pubs will go out of business in the next 12 months.
They said the failures would come from the bad public houses still operating as if it were the 1980s. They also said it would be a good thing these pubs went under as it meant the market would remain robust.
But Hans Hoffbaur, head of Swindon Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), has condemned the statement as a generalisation which did not take account of the diversity of public houses.
The guide editors said of the pubs they believed would fail: “These are the pubs at the bottom of the pecking order, the bad pubs, which still behave as if we are stuck in the 1980s, happy with indifferent food, drink, service and surroundings,” said the editors.
“It’s high time they closed their doors.
“As one eminently successful landlord told us: ‘There are probably still far too many pubs in the wrong place and often chasing the wrong market.
“The bad pubs are still being culled, just like lions pick off the slowest of the herd. It makes the pub industry more robust and far better placed for the future.
“I do not know of one single good pub that has got into trouble in recent years despite our harsh economy, unsupportive banks and horrible weather.”
But Hans has hit back at the piece.
He said: “The reality is much more complex than a throwaway comment about good and bad pubs.
“There is a huge variety of pubs. You get the country pubs with their beams and then the estate pubs built in the 70s.
“There are a lot of estate pubs that are doing really well. Who is to say what makes a good pub or bad pub anyway?”
He said he had witnessed pubs which were part of a big chain doing the worst.
“Independent pubs who can chose where they buy their beer are doing considerably better.”
He said the prediction that 4,000 pubs would close in the next 12 months was alarmist and he did not believe it.
“Alarmist numbers like that do not help,” said Hans.
“We just don’t know how many pubs will close in the future.”
There was a contrary view from Swindon’s Pubwatch chairman Paul Mellor, who said he did not know of a good pub forced to close, and customers’ expectations of what a public house should provide had risen ‘a lot’ over the last decade.
“The phrase customers vote with their feet has never been more true than today,” said Paul, of Yates.
“It’s the entrepreneurs who are succeeding.”
The Hop Inn, on Devizes Road, is an example of a pub which has moved away from the traditional pub setting and offers an array of beers from brewers around the country.
“We are a freehold so we are able to sell the beers we want,” said Jack Arnold, bar supervisor.
“I think because we don’t offer the standard brands it is a real selling point for the pub.
Jack thinks the editors have a point to a certain degree, but thinks all styles of pubs will survive if they work to their market.
He said: “It really depends on the surroundings. In some places the traditional pub may work perfectly well.
“However, if there are a lot of students, for example, then something more contemporary is suitable.”
A pub which may appear to fit the mould of a traditional pub is The New Inn, in Stratton, which first opened its doors in 1844.
However, the manager has understood the need for the pub to work to its surroundings.
Manager Darren Gee said: “We are in a built up area so we have a younger customers.
“We have changed by to fit in with this. There are a lot of screens so we can show all different types of sport and we have live entertainment at the weekends.”
Similar to other managers, Darren argues there is a place for all types of pubs as long as they giving the customers what they want.
He said: “It often depends on where a pub is as to whether is as to how it operates.
“In rural locations when a pub has an older clientele the more traditional style of pub will work fine but for us we have had to modernise.”
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