We have been delighted with the response to The Visitor’s #SOSMorecambe – Support Our Shops campaign, which seeks to give a voice to shopkeepers but also to cafe/restaurant owners and pub licensees such as MICK DENNISON from the York Hotel. Here Mick brings you his progress report on the struggles facing local pubs.
The Visitor’s Support our Shops Campaign is gathering momentum every week with some great stories of small businesses fighting back despite the recession and at times local apathy.
But is it the same story regarding our pubs?
Well, it does seem that people have fallen out with their locals.
The main reason many people use for the demise of the British pub is the Government’s ban on smoking in pubs and clubs in July 2007.
Some smokers actually blamed their local landlords and voted with their feet despite pubs and breweries creating outdoor smoking areas.
Another reason is cost when compared to supermarkets who use the sale of alcohol as a loss leader.
Pubs and shops are together in that fight. Look around Morecambe and you see a network of small communities where the local businesses are struggling to keep hold of a diminishing customer base as many desert their small row of shops for the large supermarket chains. Torrisholme, Bare and the Lancaster Road shops fight daily battles for customers. The West End at times is deserted.
Pubs really have no say on prices. The Government raise the taxes on beer every year then the brewers do the same every January. We are of course in a deep recession and with jobs being at a premium in Morecambe there just doesn’t seem to be the disposable income for hard-working people to go out to the pub like they used to.
I believe there is also a perception that pubs are not safe places anymore.
But Morecambe pubs are in the National Pubwatch Scheme. Licencees meet every month in liaison with the local police. In fact community pubs are probably the safest places to drink in town.
So, how can publicans woo you back into your local?
Firstly, you see your landlord in the pub most of the time, a reassuring presence who knows your name and hopefully what you drink.
Cask ale is making a renaissance throughout the country. There are plenty of choices throughout the town of great ales but ask your landlord if he is serving local brews such as Cross Bay, Lancaster and Old School.
Most good pubs serve fresh home cooked food at reasonable prices.
Try eating in those places and you could well be supporting the local traders who provide the raw ingredients.
Maybe we should adopt the system used by rural pubs where they have a nationwide scheme called The Pub is The Hub.
This is where pubs are used by the local communities as a place to pick up parcels and other local services that are missing in isolated areas.
If your local provides live music, go out and watch. The bands may well be local men and women trying to get a foot on the ladder in the entertainment industry. Most pubs in the area have a quiz night. They are great fun and not to be taken too seriously.
I’m writing this on a Wednesday night and there are a few in the York as it’s pool night. Other pubs around the town will be in the same situation of having custom in midweek. Speak to your landlord and try organising a darts team. It would bring people out to the pub and people would get talking and socialising with each other. It’s not an expensive night out.
I think what I’m trying to get across is the need to speak to the pub staff and tell them what you would like to see happening. This would form a community partnership and give you the ownership of activities in your local.
Remember, pubs are where wedding receptions, christenings and special birthday celebrations are held, usually at a very competitive price.
Where would all that take place if your local closes?