The following article appeared in a CAMRA round-up of newsletters in 1987.  If you add “Pub Company” to “brewery” you will notice a firm connection with the situation regarding pub closures today.

    Draught or Overdraft?

    Mike Meara shows how pubs are taking a pounding


    Any observer of today’s pub scene will have noticed some disturbing trends of late:
    ·      
    more licensees moving from pub to pub
    ·      
    more licensees leaving the trade before retirement age
    ·      
    more pubs for sale or “temporarily closed”

    Financial pressures imposed by breweries in the form of increases in rent and the buy-in price of beer and other stock are the main
    cause of these symptoms. When you find that the price of your pint has gone up yet again, this is often because the brewery has increased its wholesale prices. Some licensees try to absorb such increases, wholly or partially but this can’t be done indefinitely.

    Other causes of increased costs may not be so obvious. Faced with declining beer sales, many breweries might claw back the cash from the publican by increasing the rent when the pub changes tenants. Many instances been reported. If the new tenant then finds he (or she) can’t make a living at the new rent, he may be forced to leave, whereupon the brewery can increase… It’s easy to see how this can become a vicious circle.

    Rural pubs face further threats which may ultimately prove fatal. To this must be added the threats to trade from the reduction in public
    transport in rural areas and the increasingly healthy reluctance of people to drink and drive.

    Naturally the pubs affected are fighting back as best they can but the results are not always to the benefit of the beer drinker. You must
    have had the experience of returning to a favoured but seldom-visited country pub, only to find yourself dodging the diners as you approach what’s left of the bar; the clash of cutlery drowning even the musak and the taste of your pint losing out to the smell of cooking. More and more pubs are becoming restaurants-with-bars in an effort to survive and who can blame them? Generally they’re no longer pleasant places to go to just for a drink.

    This piece prompted by my recent discovery of a licensee who has been forced out of the trade by just such financial pressures. He’s keen on real beer; serves an excellent pint and his pub has been selected for the 1987 Good Beer Guide. However, he’s recently suffered a swingeing rate rise and was shortly expecting a rent rise to be imposed by the brewery. He could cope with all this on his summer trade, he told me but in winter? No chance! So, in October he’s leaving the pub and the trade possibly for good.

    The local CAMRA branch is sad to see him go but I wonder how many other licensees too good to lose are contemplating or have already taken the same course of action? A pub, however fine, is little good to its customers  without a good licensee behind its doors and in its cellar. We are in danger of losing that great asset and if we do, we (to quote Hilaire Belloc) “have lost the best of England”