Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pubs need investment to survive

Mike Benner, quite simply, is one of the best informed people in the entire pub industry and possibly the best advocate there is for the complex constructive change that is needed across a broad spectrum of issues intimately affecting pubs and the health of the industry as a whole.

The single most damaging thing the advent of the pubcos has brought about is their scandalous neglect of the bricks and mortar of by far the majority of the national pub estate. No wonder pubs have been abandoned by consumers in favour of Starbucks and the like. Hundreds of pubs have already been turned into Tesco locals or housing plots which, had they been maintained and looked after properly, would be thriving locals even now.

It is a complex matter overall because there are many pubs whose customer base has vanished due to demographic and social change - in places where no retail outlet, no matter how well appointed, could ever survive. But the lie is that one where a pub which has failed serially, and this automatically makes it proven, as a given, that there is no use for the building as a pub any more, ever, under any circumstances. Many pubs fail repeatedly just because they have never kept up with the times - a lot of that is to do with fundamental neglect and perennial underinvestment in the premises because there has not been enough money around to do it. The lion's share of what should have been the investment money needed was sucked out by the freeholders leaving their tenants with not enough profit to put back into their businesses. This slow process of rot at the foundations of the pub industry has been setting in for fifty years.

The answer to when is a pub not a pub? as Vince says above, is complex too - because so many different things can fairly be described as a 'pub'. But the most certain understanding of when a pub is not a pub is when the answer is: 'When it's a Tesco local' or: 'When it's a housing development'.

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