Norfolk publican’s plea to politicians to support local pubs

Pubs are a valuable British institution we can't afford to lose, says Ivan Brown.

Pubs are a valuable British institution we can't afford to lose, says Ivan Brown. - Credit: Archant

Let me take you back 50 years to the swinging 60s. Even if you're too young to remember the decade, it will be familiar through documentaries, films and, of course, the wonderful music. It was a time when the good old British pub was the centre of the community across the country. At that time the average wage was £800 a year and a pint of beer cost 10p.

Many people say they can't afford to go to the pub any more, with the price of a pint higher than it has ever been. But this is simply not the case. Comparatively speaking, with the average annual wage now standing at about £24,000 and a pint costing about £3.40 the cost is very similar to what it was 50 years ago. In fact, if the 20pc VAT is not included, the price of a pint today would actually be cheaper than it was in the early 60s. So why is it dozens of pubs are closing every month?

It was, of course, a very different world back then. No computers, no games consoles, few homes had phones, and while many people had televisions there was little choice compared to today. Families didn't travel very far, they didn't take foreign holidays and they certainly didn't spend their money on expensive meals in restaurants or on takeaways. It would be easy to believe that with the internet, film and television on demand 24 hours a day, and everyone permanently available on mobile phones, that there is no longer a need for people to go out to socialise. That isn't quite the case though, many cinemas, theatres, restaurants and clubs are thriving. The pub seems to be an exception.

Pubs have been struggling for the past dozen years or so. This coincides with supermarkets selling alcohol at knock-down prices, using beer and spirits as loss leaders. And the 1990s was the era of the booze cruise.

Thousands of people would endure the trek to France for the day to fill the car with wine and beer at prices way below British supermarkets.

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I mention this just to demonstrate British supermarkets selling alcohol cheaply is a recent phenomenon, one which now sees about 80 per cent of beer sold through supermarkets. Sadly, the effect this has had on the pub is dramatic. Young people who used to meet and spend the evening in their local before going to a nightclub simply buy cheap booze from a supermarket and get drunk at home before they even set foot outside.

This not only has a detrimental effect on our pubs but also on our town and city centres, while the loss of revenue to the government in taxes from the licensed trade and wider economic impacts of a declining pub trade, which employs tens of thousands of people, is beyond measure – particularly as more and more neighbourhoods lose vital community hubs.

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I firmly believe politicians need to act, before it's too late, and take measures to support our local pubs which are a valuable British institution we can't afford to lose.

Ivan Brown is a Norfolk publican with 35 years in the licensed trade.

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