Thursday 12 November 2015

Money for old ropey pubs

The High Grove is a Hydes pub in the middle of a housing estate in Gatley, one of Stockport’s satellite villages. Apparently Hydes want to sell it off for residential development, which has resulted in a successful campaign by the locals to have it registered as an Asset of Community Value.

However, I would say it is unlikely either that another pub operator will come in to bid for it, or that the locals will be able to raise enough money to buy it. Hydes have made an effort with it over the years, and I’ve been in a few times and found it pleasant enough. But there’s a general problem that pubs in the middle of residential areas, with no passing trade, just seem to be dead ducks. The widespread belief that such pubs have a guaranteed trade is what I call the “chimneypots fallacy”.

A further factor here is that the approach roads in both directions have been given a particularly savage set of road humps. That will deter all but the most determined out-of-area person from visiting, whereas Holts’ Griffin a mile away on a major road junction has no such constraints. It has to be recognised that, in suburban areas, a high proportion of pub customers arrive by car, and with few exceptions are not breaking the law by doing so.

I’ve long since learned that I have a very poor crystal ball when it comes to predicting the future of individual pubs. But, unless Hydes change their minds, I’d be amazed if the High Grove was still trading in a year’s time. ACVs give pubs a breathing space, but they are no guarantee of survival, and in some cases may simply lead to planning blight. A micropub or box bar might succeed in that location, but a big pub with all the associated overheads is going to struggle.

It would be ironic if, across the country, community groups ended up paying pubcos large sums of money to buy “threatened” pubs that in a few years’ time proved not to be viable after all. It can work for some pubs (and I speak as a shareholder in a community-owned pub), but it won’t work for all, especially the bigger ones.


  1. At least this is an example of a community coming together in regard to a feature of their locale they care about, and not a bunch of leftie dogooding beards out to save pubs they don't themselves drink in. If they raised the money, wouldn't the people punting up cash then actually use the pub they had paid out tom save? Or maybe, as most of these things are, it's a delaying tactic against the inevitable. They might have no intention of buying it.

    As to your pub investment, that would make an interesting post. The degree to which it could be considered an investment rather than a donation. What were the entries priced at? What are the exits and returns? How do you go about divesting yourself and do you get an annual dividend or discount at the bar?

    Also, are you disbarred from voting for a pub you have a financial interest in from receiving any beardie awards, gongs or book entries?

    Your "investment" would make a cracking blog post. Do requests, do one on that.

  2. On a second point I followed your link to What Pub and then from there to the facebook page.

    They appear motivated by not wanting a mosque in their area because they believe Muslims will adversely affect their property values. Oh dear.

    That and a belief that everyone that clicked "like" on a facebook page is willing to stump up hard cash. What a palaver.

    Do tell us you're putting your money on the table, Mudge.

  3. I think you know which pub it is, Cookie. And I understand some beard club members who live nearer to it have put in more than I have.

    It's money I can afford to lose, although if the pub ever ended up being sold for alternative use I would hope to get some of it back, if not all.

    I would happily stump up a bit to buy a share in the Nursery, if that ever came on the market. But I probably wouldn't go in there more often unless they took the big TV screens out of the back room.

  4. So you've got a certificate, no divvies and no way of exiting the investment unless you find a buyer? With no returns, the value of the investment is zero. Is there no list of people wishing an exit where the profits buy out shareholders? a share buyback? Sounds like a donation, not an investment.

    If it is the Olde Vic, that isn't so much a community pub, the buy out was for a property trust which bought the building and presumably rent the building to the pub business. Therefore the trust must be making some money from the rent. So where is that going, if not to you in divvies?

  5. Got this for you

    Point 4 is where you declare your interest should your pub be the subject of any beardie awards.

  6. Can somebody please explain what 'beardie' means ?

  7. "Beardie" = typical CAMRA member. The organisation itself may be referred to as "Beard Club"

  8. Had to smile at this in the Code of Conduct:

    1.6 When attending official regional and national CAMRA meetings, which are not designated as dry meetings, members should limit their alcohol intake in order to avoid disrupting the business being conducted.

  9. Personally I find this smug patronising reference to the "beard club" irritating and not a little offensive to be honest. Made all the more inappropriate when you consider that Mudgie and Cookie (who are both active members of said organisation) are clean shaven, as indeed are most local activists. Just grow up you two.

  10. Blame Cookie for that one, John - he sets a bad example ;-)

    Surely any organisation should be prepared to laugh at itself and not take itself too seriously, especially one that is basically about a fun activity. I would say most CAMRA members find the "Real Ale Twats" amusing, not hurtful. Plus it's really an affectionate nickname.

    Ironically, while people often talk of crafties vs beardies, the crafties now are much more likely to have beards.

  11. I clearly got out of the bed on the wrong side this morning! You are quite right of course and it is indeed ironic that facial hair is now cutting edge.

    Good Pub of the month result last night I thought (say he apropos of nothing)

  12. Yes me too. Not many CAMRA members have beards.
    I was in CAMRA almost from the beginning but came out when they failed to defend smokers.

  13. The term beard club, in the context of how I use was born in the Nursery pub, near Mudge, during one of the more boring beard club meetings.

    A friend of mine from a different club had noticed my name in one of Clarkeys OT magazines on an article and told me he had been a member since the 70's. Great thing, CAMRA, he told me. Saved British beer, he said, as we had a drink. Him on the John Smiths Smooth, me on the Carling. The next meeting is near you, I told him.

    Sure enough, he turned up at the next meeting and I joined him at his table. Our table was joined by other members. All male, all bearded. All dressed up in millets outdoor gear or a bit of the Jeremy Corbyn, geography teacher scruff. The room had a higher than normal beard count. I don't know why. It was my friends 1st meeting after over 30 years of membership.

    He wasn't impressed. He thought Clarkey droned on a bit. He liked the bearded people though. Nice chaps, he said. Afterward he coined the phrase "beards" and "beard club" in conversation with me in our other club. All meant affectionately but also with the meaning that they were a narrow demographic and not representative of drinkers.

    He turned up to 1 other meeting. When there was a free tour of Robbies brewery. He's a nice chap, and still thinks highly of the beard club and it still a member.

    I liked the term so much I stole it and began to use it. I think others use it because it is both affectionate whilst acknowledging the peculiarities of CAMRA.

    I don't much care if it offends. Your offence is your problem, not mine. Chin up.

  14. Cookie, John as good as withdrew his complaint, so lighten up. Besides, to not care whether one causes offence is just bad manners. Being free to cause offence is one thing, but causing offence without care is crass and oafish.

  15. I like Clarkey, I think he's a decent chap. But I don't much care whether he's offended, withdraws it or reinstates it. It's up to him. Whether he's offended is his free choice. He's entitled to be offended if he likes. It's free country. Don't you be telling him what to think, it's up to him. I stand up to defend Clarkey's right to be offended!

  16. Just because a brewery is trying to sell a pub doesn't necessarily mean it's struggling or ropy.

    Breweries and pub companies will sell off popular and profitable pubs if they think they came make more money from them by flogging them off to a property developer than they can by continuing to operate them as pubs, especially in London with its high property values as this case shows. They will try to get rid of tenants by imposing higher costs on them, either for beer or upkeep, or alternatively allow the pub to become so dilapidated that trade drops off. Where a pub is genuinely struggling because it's in the wrong area, it's more likely to be boarded up.

    I haven't been in the High Grove for a while but whenever I have it's been busy, as was another nearby Hydes pub, the Ryecroft Arms, I have been to recently, although Hydes have also tried to sell it off for a housing too in the last few years (as indeed they have their brewery in Moss Side). I agree with you about the awful "traffic calming" measures round there but I doubt it has that much effect on trade. As the regulars trying to buy it must know, it's people from the surrounding housing estate supporting it which will keep it going if it stays open as a pub.

    And I'd rather the High Grove was shut and bulldozed than be transformed like the Griffin into a ice cream parlour/deli/creche with average to poor beer.


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