Beer writer Pete Brown has now tackled this in this Morning Advertiser article, which will no doubt bring him a lot of flak. I would agree that the pubcos have not been good custodians of their estates, and often give the impression of not really being interested in running pubs at all. Maybe the old pre-Beer Orders Big Six were not too bad after all. On the other hand, he is quite right to point out that many pubs fail because the people running them simply aren’t very good at it.
But underlying this is surely a much bigger point that he fails to mention. The key reason why the pub trade has declined, and so many pubs have closed, is simply because the demand for pubgoing has plummeted. For a variety of reasons, some down to legislation or public policy, others falling more into the category of general social change, people have become much less interested in visiting pubs – especially just for a drink – and the range of occasions when they will contemplate a pub visit is much diminished.
In failing to acknowledge this, the anti-pubco zealots really have their heads in the sand, if not up their own backsides. As I’ve written before, even if every pub had been run as well as the best, I doubt whether it would, over the years, have made more than a couple of percentage points difference to the total trade.
Incidentally, Pete, if you’re reading this, isn’t it time you unblocked me on Twitter? I profoundly disagree with your political views, but you do talk a lot of sense about beer. You baited me, I overreacted, but can’t we move on?