Chief Executive's Blog: Derelict Pubs or Great Local Shops?

We hear from CAMRA this morning that 31 pubs are closing each week. I’ll start and finish this blog with a personal observation you may wish to dismiss as just that.

I’m not sure about you, but when I look at my local area, I see a decline in the number of pubs over a period of time, which has probably eased off recently, and I have certainly seen a vast improvement in the quality of pubs, in terms of the environment, the food offer, and the work they are doing to differentiate themselves in the community. There’s a lot to admire about these businesses, and as an aside I think local shops should be forging close relationships with nearby pubs and working together on positive issues – local events and improving the environment – as well as tackling common problems – anti-social behavior or an out of town planning application.

We have also seen countless pubs – CAMRA say two per week - converted into convenience stores, mainly by major multiples but also by independents. Where I take issue with CAMRA is on their depiction of this trend as targeting “popular and profitable” pubs. The vast majority of pubs being sold for conversion to c-stores have already shut down, and if we believe CAMRA’s figures, there are 29 pubs closing each week that are NOT being converted into convenience stores. C-store operators aren’t keen to pay for goodwill as well as the property, and with so many empty pubs, why would they target economic pubs?

If there is a great pub that’s perceived to be threatened by a predatory buyer, there is now a route to protect that by designating it a community asset.

The equation here for communities is whether they want a derelict pub or a convenience store.

Of course many independent retailers would have concerns about a competitor opening up in any property near them, and we would encourage retailers to be aware of potential pub conversions and to be pro-active. I know retailers who have bought local pubs and transformed them into buzzing community hubs once again. Others have worked with local people to buy up the pub as a community enterprise. And of course if there is a proposal for a c-store conversion, retailers can oppose this on the basis of local impact, and ACS can advise them on how to go about making their arguments with planning officials and Councillors.

And so to my second personal observation. I love drinking a pint of real ale in a pub. But that doesn’t mean that supporting real ale has to be about supporting every uneconomic pub. As well as other choices that we have for being part of the massive growth of real ale consumption by drinking in a good quality, viable pub, we can drink a bottle of real ale at home. Many convenience stores I visit link up with local breweries to offer a different aspect to their beer offer. Far be it from me to tell CAMRA members what to do, but I think the interests of real ale would be far better promoted by embracing and working with great local shops to help them to open this market up to a wider range of drinkers, rather than by bemoaning the conversion of derelict pubs.

This entry was posted by Chris on Tue, 12/08/2014 - 09:00