End-of-an-era; The Public House (5)

October 11, 2012

It has been some time since I made any report on anything at all – it has been a busy time. But it has not escaped my notice that there have been more changes regarding pubs.

The ‘Geroge V’ seems to be staggering on, the ‘Let this pub’ sign appearing and disappearing. The ‘Golden Fleece’ seems to have closed down again, and a ‘To Let’ sign has reappeared, and all the theme night posters disappeared. But these pubs are still pubs, at least for now.

Now to the buildings that have changed. Two of those mentioned before are now ‘Sainsbury’s Local’ – The ‘Green Man’, and the ‘Duke of Wellington’. The former is an all new building, demolishing an historic building in the process, the latter refitted into the existing (1930s (?)) building. Another building being refitted is ‘The Warren’ (another 1930s building?), becoming a local Tesco’s, but that refit is still going on – as of today, it looks almost ready to receive stock.

The transformation of the ‘Duke of Wellington’ completed as ‘Sainsbury’s Local’ supermarket

As I drive around on business or simply on my necessary journeys, there are just so many pubs that are not open now when formerly they would have been; are they closed – open on weekends only? Closed – for business? Closed – to be sold for other purposes?

In my opinion, the traditional pub is within a few years of extinction. There was a radio programme this week that reported that in some areas of the UK it was uneconomic to open an ‘Off Licence’ (a shop selling alcohol for consumption ‘off the premises’) due to illegal imports of cheap lager and spirits – or just simply illegal manufacture in the UK. If Off Licenceses are uneconomic because of this illegal trade, no wonder public houses with their much higher overheads are closing down.

If such news makes it to radio programmes, it clearly is well advanced.

The illegal trade is only going to increase as the UK duty rate on alcohol is far higher than that across the channel, meaning that it is economic to go to France, fill a van with lager, and drive back (if you can do so evading customs) and sell it cheaper than the UK price. So doing it on an industrial scale clearly is highly profitable for the illegal trade. And the government needs revenue so much it’s hardly likely to cut the rate of duty, even if it were not afraid of the consequences of freely available cheap booze on the English.

It was that fear, during the 1914-18 war, that caused the introduction of so many of the restrictions of opening hours etc for the pub trade. The recent loosening of these restrictions – in a vain attempt to create a ‘cafe society’ – is also too late, and ineffective with the high rates of duty to contend with.

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