Thursday, 24 January 2008

Ten green bottles

A couple of recent pub closures in the area between Altrincham and Warrington in North Cheshire have underlined the difficulties currently facing the licensed trade. Both, by coincidence, are sometime Boddingtons tied houses next to former stations on the long-closed Altrincham to Warrington railway line.

The first is the Rope & Anchor at Dunham Woodhouses, an imposing Edwardian redbrick edifice. Maybe fifteen or twenty years ago it was smartly refurbished inside but since then seems to have gone through a variety of food-led formats that have never been conspicuously successful. It’s now firmly closed and boarded.

The other, perhaps even more worrying, is the Railway at Heatley, a multi-roomed Victorian pub that appears in the 2008 Good Beer Guide, and was probably the most traditional, cosy pub for miles around. The tenancy is advertised on Fleurets website as being available, but it has been closed for three months now and is looking increasingly neglected. You have to wonder whether either will ever reopen as pubs.

In the surrounding area there’s further evidence of pub decline. The Roebuck in the centre of Partington has finally been demolished after being closed for a number of years - just opposite the site of the King William IV, which is now a block of flats. As far as I’m aware, Partington, a rather down-at-heel village of more than 7,000 people, now has no pub at all, although there is a social club.

The Anchor on the main A56 road through Lymm closed a few years ago, and the Bleeding Wolf in leafy Hale, once one of Cheshire’s landmark pubs and home of a famous bowling club, has also given way to flats. There is no shortage of spending power or potential customers in Hale - it is just that commercial redevelopment is far more lucrative than continued trading as a pub in a gently declining market.

This is a prosperous area near to major centres of population, so if proper pubs are struggling for viability here it is a worrying portent for the country as a whole.

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