Friday, 22 January 2016

And Jill came tumbling after

Sad news, although not entirely unexpected, that the Jack and Jill in Brinnington has closed its doors after around sixty years of trading. It was the last pub serving this large estate – the Farmers Arms and Cheshire Cat have both been closed for many years, and the Horsfield Arms, on the main road at the other end in front of Robinsons’ packaging plant, shut a couple of years ago and has recently been demolished.

It was a long, rather elegant single-storey building that architecturally could easily have passed for a primary school from the same era. Certainly it was very different from the grim, brutalist estate pubs of a decade later. I hadn’t been in for years but remember it retaining many original design features. To Robinsons’ credit, they are marketing it without any restrictive covenant, and say “The pub will be offered for sale on the open market and we fully support the property being sold as a licensed premises.” I’d be very surprised if anyone did come in to buy it as a pub, though.

The classic estate boozer is now a rapidly dwindling species, and you have to wonder, as I discussed here, whether it was a misconceived concept from the start. Of course, wet-led pubs in working class areas were always going to be hit particularly hard by the smoking ban, but there’s more to it than that. Maybe there could be scope for specialist operators such as Amber Taverns to make something of them, whereas they don’t really fit in with Robinsons’ business philosophy which is to aim for a much more up-market appeal. In the past few years they have closed or sold probably about a quarter of their estate, mostly from what would be called the “bottom end”.

But never mind, a new micropub one-twentieth the size has just opened up in a location nowhere near Brinnington, so all’s well with the world really.

6 comments:

  1. Nothing to do with this but it just needs to be flagged up.
    The Guardian has just done a big story on bad alcohol. Apparently, 69% of alcohol is consumed by hazardous and harmful drinkers. If Dame Silly Davies is to be believed, that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, then that should be 100%. The opinions expressed in the article are mainly driven by interested parties, in that alcohol is bad. In Canada it is stated that a 10% price increase has led to a 32% reduction in alcohol-related deaths. I am not willing to just accept these figures without explanation: those buying premium brands could afford a 10% increase or could buy cheaper products at the same strength. Even those buying Frosty Jack are not going to be put off by a 10% increase in price.

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  2. I appreciate your final sentence was ironic, but there are some people who do take that misguided view. Most closed down pubs will generally have had more customers than any micropub: the small number of people who'd fill a micropub would look lost in most pubs. The overheads of a micropub are a tiny compared to a pub, so to survive a pub needs many times the number of customers that a micropub can accommodate.

    Ultimately, though, a busy pub provides an opportunity for social mixing in a way micropubs cannot. I like the micropubs I've been in, but I see them as a supplement to pubs, not a replacement.

    Why are estate pubs closing? They tend to be in working class areas where sources of mass employment have been destroyed, unemployment is high and for those in work, there have been pay freezes or even pay cuts in recent years. There are whole communities for whom the recession has never gone away. There simply isn't the money to keep the pubs going.

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  3. @Nev - yes, it's a serious point. There seem to be a lot of "beer enthusiasts" nowadays who are completely indifferent to large-scale pub closures so long as they can still get their favourite tipple in a trendy craft beer bar.

    Yes, in many cases they're victims of social change and aren't realistically viable, but it's still a matter of regret.

    Agreed by Martin Taylor here.

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  4. Agree with yours and Nev's points.

    The article in the latest Opening Times on the Portwood Stockport) Stagger is quite telling, nearly all pubs except the Crown very quiet on a Friday.

    On average, micro-pubs (and that's not a legal definition of course) have had less than half a dozen folk in them. But they can seem misleadingly lively with only a couple of like-minded punters and a chatty landlord, like Dover and Gillingham did. Should never be seen as a replacement for a traditional pub.

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  5. I think the writer generalises a bit too much in the conclusion. The Midway was extremely busy, albeit mostly with diners, and there was a pretty good crowd in the Railway.

    The Swan with Two Necks is never busy on Friday evenings anyway (as we saw last night) and the Chestergate and George are both crap and don't really deserve many customers.

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  6. @KJP - thanks for the heads-up. I've posted about that report today.

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