Friday, 26 August 2011

Urban pubs hammered

The Western Mail reports that, in a recent auction of pubs held at the Celtic Manor Hotel near Newport, only one of the nine pubs on offer was sold, six failed to meet their reserve prices and two received no bids at all.

This is sadly symptomatic of the general malaise of the pub trade in urban areas outside major town and city centres. Prominent South Wales CAMRA activist Arfur Daley looked into the pubs being sold and said:

One thing I noticed about these pubs is that a lot of them are urban and they lack outdoor smoking areas.

Some of them had been quite successful in the past but once the smoking ban came in that was the big problem. That was their downfall.
A rare and welcome example of a CAMRA member actually taking the blinkers off and recognising the disaster that has overtaken the pub trade all around him.
Rodney Cave, an independent licensed property valuer, said it was time for the Government to call a review of the smoking ban, adding pressure also needed to be put on banks to lend to those looking to invest in pubs and hotels.

“I attribute this disastrous decline in the licensed trade to the smoking ban, certainly,” he said.

“While you can make a case for saying smoking is harmful, it would be perfectly suitable to provide a separate room for smokers.

“Now the people who would have been down their local are at home with cans of lager from the supermarket.”

He said the trend has led to a decline in social contact, especially in less prosperous areas where, he claimed, families cannot afford to pay for expensive meals and “going out for one or two pints is all that their budget allows.”

It is precisely these areas, he said, where the worst-hit pubs are.
And exactly the same kind of thing has been happening in working-class areas the length and breadth of the country, for example as reported here in Denton and Audenshaw.

It would be interesting to see whether some of those who bang on in the comments here about the rude health of some parts of the pub trade would have the guts to take on some of these South Wales pubs. The asking prices are so low that, if you could make a go of one, it could prove a goldmine. Funny how nobody was biting, though, isn’t it?

This coincides with the launch this week of Antony Worrall Thompson’s petition on the government website calling for a review of the smoking ban. If you care about the future of the pub trade, please sign it here.

Incidentally, the headline on the newspaper article is wrong – it clearly should refer to “urban pubs”, not “rural pubs”.

H/t to Simon Clark at Taking Liberties.


  1. There is a time limit on repealing the ban. More and more people are adjusting to life without pubs. Every day a new batch of customers reach the 'age' and go the pub.
    Many will look around and walk out, and who can blame them. The future of pubs in the UK is dire.
    On a rainy evening after a shitty day I and my other half fancied a few drinks. Neither of us chose the pub. Reason? Rain, chilly, no shelter = no interest.
    Supermarket 1 Pubs 0.

  2. Also in the article... showing its not all doom and gloom

    "According to the managing director of Sidney Phillips and Co, Robin Mence, it is just a sign of the times and not a reflection of the overall health of the pub industry.

    He said the eight that failed to sell at auction were in areas already saturated by other licensed premises, making them less profitable for people hoping to run them as pubs, adding that, overall, the sale of 12 properties – and another yesterday – was “a pretty good result”.

    He said: “I’m confident we’ll still be selling pubs in 25 years’ time.

    “We’re being positive but not blindly positive. A lot of the pubs that are struggling to sell don’t present a good investment at this time because pub culture is slowly evolving.

    “The biggest growth area is real ale and good eating pubs, and it is these that are seeing a boost.”

  3. Gave up smoking exactly a year ago but signed the petition as I believe it would help and the blanket ban is wrong. How long has this petition been running for? Only 1788 have signed so far?? Perhaps the horse has now bolted?

    following on from the closed pubs post, a forthcoming auction list here : makes depressing reading. But surely some of these hard pressed Enterprise/Punch tenants could make a go of some of these?

  4. The petition was only started on Monday of this week so has done pretty well to have got 1,778 signatures so far and be Number 44 on the list. Only ten petitions have got more than 10,000 signatures.

    Experience of the previous petitions site suggests that without some kind of national media exposure a petition will struggle to get into five figures.


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