Closing Time For Pubs?

As new figures show more pubs are closing than ever, should we be worried? Ethan Howe reports.

As a second year University student, when I think of Pubs I automatically think of Wetherspoons. I think I can speak for most students when I say that cheap alcohol can win me over very easily.

However, with the research I’ve been doing for some stories recently, I’ve realised that the charm of a real pub is something that is difficult to beat.

Whether it’s the building itself, the charming personalities that go there, the local talent that plays there, or maybe just the pub owner that has a new story to tell every time you see them. There is always something that makes a pub unique.

But sadly it seems like we could be saying goodbye to the ‘traditional English Pub’.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) recently reported that:

“18 pubs are being lost each week”.

CAMRA are urging that the tax burden placed on Pubs needs to be cut as this is one of the main factors in the closure of Pubs.

Currently, about a third of a pub pint is now made up of various taxes.

So now the real questions come in to play.

Should we be worried?

Should we care?

In all honestly, these aren’t easy questions to answer, because it won’t be the same for everyone, but let’s talk through how it may, and may not affect you.

History

Pubs, or ‘Public Houses’ are famously linked with England, and rightfully so. First of all, I don’t just mean that all English people are alcoholics, what I mean is that Pubs have been a major part of England history for a long time.

The Three Daws

During my research I visited my hometown of Gravesend in Kent to speak to Pub owners.

The reason I decided on Gravesend of all places is due to the fact that it used to be referred to as ‘The Watering Hole’ of the Thames.

At least that’s what Terry Lee, owner of the Red Lion Pub told me.

Terry was exactly how I imagined he’d be from the moment I spoke to him on the phone to organise the interview.

Terry Lee – Owner of the Red Lion Pub

He is almost what I imagined most pub owners to be like. He was very sociable and easy to talk to, and he had so many interesting stories that I’m sure he’d have a story for every type of person to enjoy.

Since Terry had owned the Pub for 40 years, he was basically an expert on Pubs in Gravesend (even though I’m sure he wouldn’t describe himself that way).

“There used to be over 80 pubs here, but now there’s less than 40”, Terry then showed me a book with pictures of all of the Pubs that used to be in Gravesend.

Just as a side note, I’m generally not someone who gets attached to the ‘history’ of things. Before I moved to University I basically got rid of all my toys from my childhood without batting an eye lid.

But seeing how Gravesend is losing its main stamp on history actually made me feel sad.

Not only is my hometown of Gravesend losing its history, but so is England.

We still have the history of Kings, Queens and Castles. But the history of the Pub is seen in every town and every block.

Or at least it was.

Drinking

It may come to a shock to hear, but the point of the Pub wasn’t originally to drink. Instead it was a place for communities to meet, which is where the name ‘public house’ came from.

But nowadays, Pubs are becoming increasingly more expensive to drink at.

As I said earlier, one third of the price of a pint is now made up of taxes, and this is making it extremely hard for Pubs to offer competitive prices.

The argument for not caring about Pubs closing in relation to drinking is the fact that there are now cheaper places for you to drink that are not necessarily ‘Pubs’.

The biggest of these places I have already mentioned, and I’m sure most people have already though of: Weatherspoon’s.

“Weatherspoon’s have the buying power” is what Terry told me.

Since Weatherspoon’s is a franchise they have the ability to get alcohol cheap and sell it cheap.

Not only this but they are not known for their entertainment. There is no live music, and no jukebox.

This is just another way that they save money, which allows them to sell alcohol cheaper.

So really if all you are looking to do is drink and talk, there is not really any reason for you to not go to a Weatherspoon’s.

It’s kind of ironic that Weatherspoon’s has taken the role of what Pubs originally used to be – ‘Public Houses’.

But this leads me onto my next point.

Entertainment

Now that Pubs are having to evolve to stay open, one major thing that they are pushing is different types of entertainment.

Live music is one type of entertainment that a lot of pubs are investing in. This gives people a reason to stay at the Pub instead of using a Pub as a place to drink, then go elsewhere to be entertained.

Kye Flynn photographed on left

I spoke to Kye Flynn who is a music student at Solent University, he said: “As an aspiring musician it’s great that pubs are looking for live music. It gives us a way to not only practice, but also to get our name out there.”

So not only is the live music benefiting the people who are going to the pubs, but it is clearly helping the musicians who are having trouble getting gigs.

Final Thoughts

It seems like times are changing for Pubs.

They can no longer stay open by simply offering a place for people to meet.

Pubs need to entertain, they need to give people a reason chose to go to the pub, they can no longer just offer drinks.

Whether it’s by using food or music, Pubs will struggle to stay open if they don’t evolve. That’s the key.

Pubs need to evolve.

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