Earlier this month, the local branch of CAMRA held its annual Good Beer Guide selection meeting in the upstairs room of the Magnet pub in Stockport. It was a very well-attended meeting, but on top of this the pub downstairs was rammed too. The pub themselves said that they had seen their busiest January for years, and this was continuing into February. Hopefully at least part of the motivation for this was a desire to put two fingers up to “Dry January”.
The Magnet is a pub that does what it sets out to do very well and is justifiably popular. On that particular Thursday evening it might well have been the busiest pub in Stockport town centre. But this clearly demonstrates that, despite all the hand-wringing about the cost-of-living crisis, there are still plenty of people around with money to spend in pubs. This is borne out by the Morning Advertiser, which reports that “The majority of operators I’ve spoken to have reported stronger than expected sales in January, with customers continuing to visit and spend well.”
I’m well aware that my pattern of pubgoing is hardly representative, but in the year so far I’ve visited a wide cross-section of pubs and seen levels of trade ranging from being the sole customer through nicely ticking over to standing room only. It seems no different from how it was pre-Covid. The one pub where I was the only customer was one that I’m confident would have been busy at other times*. Unsurprisingly, two of the busiest ones were branches of Wetherspoon’s.
I’m not denying for a minute that there are many people who are finding things a struggle at present, but equally there are lots who aren’t. Apparently foreign holiday bookings have exceeded the 2019 level. There is plenty of money out there to be spent, and pubs do themselves no favours by overdoing the doom and gloom.
* ironically, this one served me probably my best pint of the year so far