Monday 24 November 2008

Giving with one hand...

How typical of Alastair Darling to cut VAT as an economic sweetener, but at the same time increase duty on alcohol, tobacco and road fuel to offset the shortfall. Alcohol duties have gone up by a whacking 8%. Given that food and books and newspapers are zero-rated and domestic fuel already has a lower VAT rate of 5%, there’s very little left that people buy on a day-to-day basis that is actually subject to VAT. If people are worried about their job prospects, they’re hardly going to be tempted to splurge on a new car or kitchen by a 2.5% price cut. And what’s the betting that, when the VAT rate reverts to 17.5%, the duty rates won’t be reduced back to where they started?

It would have been welcome if people were given a bit of Christmas cheer from a temporary reduction in the price of drink, but obviously that does not fit with the joyless agenda of the New Puritans. Indeed, while the duty hike has been presented as simply maintaining the retail price, in many cases, particularly spirits, it will actually increase the price in the shops. Also, given the way pub licensees often work out retail price by applying a mark-up to the wholesale price, it could easily end up putting prices up in pubs too.

Saturday 22 November 2008

A silver lining?

Inevitably the current “credit crunch”, “economic downturn” or whatever is going to lead to the closure of large numbers of pubs. But, ironically it might end up being the saviour of a few. Especially in the south-east, but increasingly in other parts of the country, pubs that are viable enough in themselves have been closed because the site was more valuable for residential development. But, with the demand for property having fallen through the floor, that is often no longer the case. One such is the Ryecroft Arms in Cheadle Hulme, the former Conway, that had been slated by Hydes for closure and redevelopment, but now seems to have been given a new lease of life. The report of the local planning committee makes interesting reading – the proposed redevelopment seems to have been rather misconceived and the appetite of the developers for pushing it through will now have evaporated.

But the Conway/Ryecroft Arms was never a particularly appealing pub, and it does raise the question, which might lead to another post, as to why post-war “estate pubs” – and indeed many of their inter-wars counterparts – have proved so intrinsically unappealing in the long term.

Friday 21 November 2008

United we stand

Some very wise words from Archie Norman, former Chief Executive of ASDA, about the need for on and off-trade to stand together to resist government restrictions.

As I have argued, both are part of one overall drinks trade, and the right of adult consumers to consume alcohol responsibly, whether at home or in the pub, is now under serious threat from government action, egged on by the anti-alcohol lobby. It is not pubs vs supermarkets, it is drinkers vs banners.

Sunday 9 November 2008

A missed opportunity?

You can’t really blame Carlsberg for wanting to close the Tetley brewery in Leeds, given that it is on a prime city-centre site. But surely there is a missed opportunity there. Cask is the only growth sector in the beer market, and Tetley’s is one of the very few beers brewed by the international brewers that still has any credibility. If they could have found a compatible alternative brewing site in Yorkshire, they had a wonderful opportunity to make Tetley’s the best-selling cask beer in Britain. Just more proof that executives obsessed with international mega-brands have no idea how the British beer market actually works.

Sunday 2 November 2008

Dedication to drinking

It's hard to beat this story for commitment to pubgoing and drinking:

Drinkers on longest ever pub crawl reach 14,000th pub

No doubt Dawn Primarolo or some other joyless New Labour health minister will condemn it for setting a bad example and encouraging drinking above "safe" levels.

It was also interesting that in a radio interview they admitted to doing most of this pub-crawling by car. Now, I'm sure they're well aware of the need to avoid falling foul of the law, but can we really believe the designated driver doesn't partake of the occasional half?