The Good Pub Guide have announced that they are going to start charging pubs for inclusion as full entries - £199 a year for dining pubs, and £99 for those with a more limited food offer. They claim that this won’t lead to a reduction in standards, and that no pubs will be included that otherwise wouldn’t be, but inevitably any policy of charging for entries will compromise the independence of a pub guide. The problem is not so much that unworthy pubs will be included, but that worthy ones won’t be because they won’t pay up.
I’ve never had a lot of time for the Good Pub Guide, which gives the impression of being predominantly a guide to poncey dining pubs that I would go out of my way to avoid. But it does, perhaps in the interest of credibility, include a smattering of proper pubs – for example, the 2006 edition includes, in this area, the White Lion at Barthomley, the Marble Arch and Stalybridge Station Buffet.
It is exactly that sort of pub that is likely to feel it is not worth paying for an entry, thus leaving the guide even more skewed than it is at present and reducing the comprehensiveness of the information it provides for its readers. And, if a pub is on the borderline, but is willing to pay for an entry, can the editors really say that won’t affect their decision? Despite their claims, I can see this move damaging sales as the book will no longer be perceived as unbiased.