The cry’s gone out to save our pubs
Nov 24 2008 by Andrew Baldwin, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
The cry’s gone out to save our pubs
Chancellor Alistair Darling has been urged to announce measures aimed at saving pubs in his Pre-Budget Report today. But, as ANDREW BALDWIN reports, it’s too late for many
WHEN Huddersfield town centre bar HD One hit the buffers it was hardly a surprise.
A drive through any town reveals the depressed state of the pub trade, with business after business boarded up.
HD One owners Matthew Lammyman and his mother, Jean, blamed rocketing costs and falling sales for the demise of their Westgate bar.
Rises in alcohol prices and competition from supermarkets took their toll.
In a letter to Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman the Lammymans accused the Government of double standards over its treatment of pubs and supermarkets.
“This Government has done to the pub and bar industry what Mrs Thatcher did to the manufacturing industry,” they said in their letter.
They are not alone with their accusation.
Cut-price supermarket booze is driving people out of pubs and into buying huge quantities of alcohol to drink at home.
The pub industry is in crisis, with as many as 36 pubs a week closing, largely as a result of supermarkets selling alcohol below cost.
A tidal wave of beer tax rises, unfair supermarket competition and the economic downturn threatens to close up to 7,500 pubs by the end of 2012, says the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).
Chancellor Alistair Darling has been urged to announce measures aimed at saving pubs in his Pre-Budget Report today.
Camra’s demands include:
A reduction in VAT in order to help pubs
An investigation into the feasibility of a reduced rate of tax on beer sold in pubs
A minimum price per unit of alcohol to prevent alcohol being sold at a loss by supermarkets.
Camra chief executive Mike Benner says a ‘bloodbath’ with thousands more pub closures is in prospect if nothing is done.
He added: “This year’s increase in beer tax has forced publicans to increase beer prices, making visiting the pub less affordable for hard-pressed consumers.
“To ensure pub-going remains affordable the Government must commit to a freeze on beer tax while they consider a reduced rate of tax on beer sold in pubs.
‘Well-run community pubs help reduce alcohol related disorder and binge drinking by providing a safe, controlled and supervised environment for people to have fun and enjoy a drink.
“Pubs play a vital role in community life and provide a much-valued sociable leisure activity for millions.”
Price controls on supermarkets are needed, says Mr Benner.
He says: “Despite overwhelming political and media concern supermarkets continue to push below cost alcohol deals.
“Current promotions include 18 bottles of premium lager being sold for £6.99 and 45 cans of lager for £18.
“These deals are utterly irresponsible and are ripping the heart out of community life by closing pubs.
“The Government must act now to end irresponsible alcohol price promotions that are encouraging alcohol misuse, undermining communities, ruining livelihoods and damaging peoples’ social lives,” he says.
It’s a cry echoed by Tony Brookes, who runs Head of Steam pubs in Huddersfield, Newcastle, Liverpool and London.
He has thrown his weight behind a campaign calling for a ban on the below-cost sale of alcohol in supermarkets.
Mr Brookes says raising the price per unit to 50p would effectively double the price of supermarket alcohol, a long overdue move.
“Selling alcohol as a loss leader is a socially irresponsible thing to do,” he says. “It is immoral and should be illegal. If milk or bread were sold as loss leaders that would be fine, but alcohol is effectively a drug.
“Campaigns to tackle supermarket deals on alcohol have attracted support, but they now need the support of the big pubcos to make a difference. They are the key.
“Smaller companies can do the standing up and shouting but we need those with 8,000 to 9,000 pubs to get on board.”
But it’s too late for the Lammymans after the closure of HD One. They say: “Owners and licensees are losing their savings, their livelihood and finally their homes.
“Employees are losing their jobs.”