Friday, June 22, 2012

It's the community that is at risk, not the Packhorse

This is Bath; Friday 22 June 2012 

 “I don't know the Packhorse, or the locality at all, but can say with confidence the figures and conclusion put together by Mike Mapstone bear little relation to what would be the reality if a good operator took on the building with knowledge of what makes The People of South Stoke tick and a clear vision of how to apply that with skill, common sense and flair in a sensitive refurbishment that provides amenity, products and great service that are relevant to its customers. That WOULD make the Pack Horse into a viable business which enthused locals and attracted people from a far wider area so meeting Gerard Coles' vision of what the pub ought to be able to achieve if treated appropriately.

Mapstone paints the downside on all counts, totally disregarding the intrinsic value there is in a well run pub being an important part of community life. His stating 18% return on investment on a car park as a minimum expectation of reward says more about where Mapstone is coming from and going to in his sojourn through life than it does about the potential viability of any pub in Britain; let alone this particular Pack Horse he seems to know so little about. If Mapstone were to apply the same rhetoric to the viability of his progeny he'd find himself coolly taking this objective view, based on short term ROI expectations, and sell them off before their existence eroded his valuable, no doubt hard earned, investment capital.

The Tragedy of the British Pub's long history, and the reason so many have failed in the last two decades, is that management of the pub industry has fallen into the hands of people whose dominant outlook is like Mapstone's - such people regard pubs as nothing more than units on a spreadsheet, vessels for extraction of the maximum possible profit against the least possible investment. These people have asset stripped our nation's heritage on the back of irrational expectations of never diminishing ROI without ever taking into consideration the real value of Social Capital and in so doing, while making a few people very rich, have systemically, willfully contributed to the permanent, irreversible, impoverishment of communities all over the UK.

Pubs are an essential part of Britain's social fabric and well appointed, well stocked, and well run pubs are part of the lifeblood of communities everywhere. The history of the Public House is so much a part of Britain's essential heritage and tradition that the pub clearly recognised internationally as well as at home as a defining part of what constitutes Britain's very Sense of Place.

The collapse of the British pub sector, so visible in the landscape all around us, has been driven entirely by Private Equity greed for short term return and marks a moment in our history which, unless arrested by cooperative community action everywhere, will be looked back upon as nothing less than a cultural crime of unprecedented national proportions - where the British people's heritage was sold off like worn family silver with the proceeds going into the pockets of a few Chianti swilling cads who don't care a toss for quality of life in communities anywhere.

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