Pubs in the North are closing at the rate of five a week prompting concerns over the long term future of the region’s watering holes.
New figures today show a rise in weekly closures has accelerated from three per week in December last year to five this summer.
Campaigners are now calling for an urgent change in the law to make it harder for pubs to be demolished or converted to supermarkets and convenience stores.
Pubs in the region which have been become supermarkets in recent years include The Lodge, in Durham City, which is now a Sainsburys and The Prospect in Sunderland which became a Lidl.
Supermarkets tend to favour taking over drinking venues as no planning permission is needed to convert them into supermarkets.
Camra – the Campaign for Real Ale – has now launched a campaign calling for planning applications to be required before a pub is demolished or converted to another use.
The organisation says that in most cases communities have been powerless to save their locals.
Neil Walker, from Camra, said:
“Far too many pubs are still closing and unfortunately this is true for the North East Region too. With five net pub closures a week it is clear that more needs to be done to protect pubs and encourage more people to visit their local more often.”
The situation has become so desperate that some communities have resorted to buying their local pubs to prevent them from closing or standing empty.
Villagers living in Slaley in Northumberland have been working hard to keep the much-loved Rose and Crown watering hole open after taking over the venue last August.
They set about plans to buy the pub themselves and formed Slaley Community Assets Ltd (SCAL), creating shareholders who invested around £500 each.
The group managed to collect more than £200,000 in less than three months and the cash was then used to secure a mortgage towards the final £250,000 purchase price.
David Allsop, a director of SCAL, said the pub was finally making a profit, but not after a lot of hard work in terms of maximising the use of the venue.
Mr Allsop said:
“For the first 11 months we were making a loss, we managed to break even for one month, and the past two months have seen a profit.
“The reason we have been able to do that is by using the whole building. We are taking revenue from drinks, food, as well as running a B&B and opening a self-catering holiday let.
“I would say it’s near impossible to run a pub – outside the city centre – on just drinks revenue alone, so I understand why all these places are struggling to survive.”
Landlords argue that pubs’ demise has been fuelled by supermarkets, which cut the price of lager so much it was cheaper than bottled water.
This has prompted campaigners to demand more is done to tackle cheap supermarket deals.
Despite repeated efforts, plans to introduce a minimum price of 40 pence per unit of alcohol in England and Wales have failed to turn into a reality.
A report this week showed the positive impact of pubs on rural communities.
According to the latest research, the pubs act as a local meeting point and hub for the community to meet and engage with each other.
Source – Sunday Sun, 12 Oct 2014