29 Aug 2013

Last orders? 4,000 pubs set to close doors

Up to 4,000 pubs are set to close their doors in the next year – but they are “stuck in the 1980s” anyway, says the Good Pub Guide 2014. Channel 4 News looks at what makes a good pub.

Locals may be up in arms about the closure of 4,000 pubs – and that’s aside from the staff who work there.

But the closure of “bad pubs” will make way for 1,000 new pubs to open, which will give a better experience to customers: that is the view put forward by the Good Pub Guide 2014, which argues that closures will be a good thing for new visionary licensees

Between 2,500 and 4,000 are expected to go out of business, but the guide quotes a successful landlord saying there are too many pubs in the wrong place, 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,” he said.

The guide said that standards are improving in pubs, as vocational training for staff improves, and called for pubs to name their chefs on menus.

Action to address the root causes rather than closing them is the answer for staff and for local communities – Steve Kemp, GMB

But Steve Kemp, political officer of the GMB union, said: “The report identifies that there are thousands of pubs that have not been refurbished, where the offering to consumers is outdated.

“The report does not identify the root causes as to why these pubs that survived the depression and the war have been starved of investment. Action to address the root causes rather than closing them is the answer for staff and for local communities.

“Highly indebted property companies own over half of Britain’s pubs. They charge sky-high rents to tied tenants of pubs.”

What makes a good pub?

Channel 4 News took to Twitter to ask the vital question: what do you think makes a good pub? Jamie Wright, 19, from Nantgaredig in Carmarthenshire, south Wales told us:

“Pubs are places where people can come together, and for some, who live on their own, this is a vital part of a fulfilling life. A good community needs a good pub. It’s about much more than a pint.” Watch his film about his local pub, The Railway, below:

A quick look at The Railway from Jamie Wright on Vimeo.

For many, the cost of a pint is a crucial factor – and that can vary widely. A survey by the guide showed a 65p difference in the price of a pint of beer between Staffordshire (the cheapest) and London (the most expensive), with the average pint across the UK costing £3.20. Beer brewed by pubs themselves, on the premises, typically cost 40p a pint less than the local average, the guide found.

‘Pubs need to be saved’

Roger Protz, editor of the rival Campaign for Real Ale’s 2014 Good Beer Guide, took issue with the Good Pub Guide’s view that pub closures would be good for the industry.

“How bizarre that a book called the Good Pub Guide should welcome the closure of as many as 4,000 pubs. Pubs need to be saved – not thrown on the scrapheap,” he said.

“We welcome the new localism act that enables pubgoers to save pubs threatened with closure, get them listed by local authorities and protected as community assets. One hundred such pubs are now listed in this manner and several are run as co-operatives by local people. We want to save pubs, not axe them.”

More than 4,700 pubs are featured in the guide, which also gives ratings of pubs across the country. The Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland, was named pub of the year, while best landlord went to Tim Gray of the Yew Tree in Lower Wield, Hampshire.

Here’s what you said about the makings of a good pub: