Archive for January 22nd, 2008

Riga, anyone?

I try to do some planning.

Anyone know of good pubs, beer shops, restaurants, fun places for families to go? Come to think of it, I need to book a hotel as well.

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I would say it is not my fault, but if we should, for once, believe what we read in the Sunday Mirror, there are 67 pubs in Britain closing every month.

Bars are selling 50 million fewer pints of beer a month than they were a year ago.

Beer sales dropped by almost 10 per cent during December – normally the busiest time of the year.

The dramatic decline leaves many of the nation’s 58,000 locals in trouble.

Last month’s nine per cent decline in sales follows a 9.7 per cent drop in November the worst on record while October fell by 7.7 and September by 8.2 per cent. Between June and December, 470 pubs disappeared 2,000 have closed in the last two years.

The industry blames two factors: The smoking ban and cheap supermarket alcohol.

There are still 58.000 British pubs left, so I should be able to find a pint for a few years yet.

As for the smoking ban, I think it is being used as a scapegoat. I have written about the success of similar legislation across Europe, and, apart from some grumbling from Ireland, the pubs and bars seem to be doing quite all right.

When it comes to the British Isles, I think the gap between supermarket prices and pub prices has made a heavy impact. There are now predictions about the £4 pint arriving in 2008, and you don’t have to have a maths degree to see that this will hit the marginal pubs. 

And, realistically, there are limits to what you can do with legislation. If the market will not sustain the present number of pubs, there is not a lot you can do to preserve them all. The most English way of facing the problem was a letter to the press by Stanley Johnson, father of London candidate for mayor Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson (Senior) is of the opinion that a reduction in the drink-drive limit would kill off many pubs in remote rural areas.

The British pubs, like other businesses, have to adjust and change to appeal to new generations. Or course there is a unique heritage that appeals to locals and visitors, and let us hope that most of the best ones survive. At the same time, there are new, good pubs opening and there are old ones adapting, offering a better range of beers, better food etc. Some of the splendid bank buildings that have been converted into pubs, like the Old Bank of England in Fleet Street, show that it’s not all decline.

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