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
They teach you at pub landlord school to be miserable and pessimistic. The glass is not only half empty but its been knocked over and smashed. Ensure you have something to moan about whether it is taxes, supermarkets or people defecating in the latrines. It's as important as learning to pour short measures, not bothering to clear up or wipe tables, and telling real ale drinkers your 10 day old bitter is meant to taste like that because it is real ale. It is what being a pub landlord is all about.ReplyDelete
Whenever you want to go to our pub landlord association monthly meetings I'll take you in my top of the range brand spanking new range rover to the most despairing meeting of depressed moaning old sods you will ever meet. All convinced the world is ending and next year they won't be able to afford to replace the range rover with a new one or buy the wife a new rolex.
But thankfully you all do turn up and buy our overpriced beer so it all works out in the end.
I have worked at home since covid and it's great. I can get the washing done and prep nice evening meals for the kids whilst they are at school. I seek out new local pubs and try new lagers. I hear what you say. The only blight on my day are these miserable people. Can we have a feature on staff not clearing tables and lazy staff. Also why can't I put a crisp wrapper in a pint glass? Why is it frowned upon to touch a pump clip?Delete
You are confusing landlords with farm owners.Delete
Tell that to the thousands of leaseholders who can't buy beer wholesale for the prices Spoons retail at, and make precious little margin from selling it. Perhaps also mention this to the even larger number of publicans who've recently been hit with wholesale beer price rises of 20%, energy costs that have quadrupled or more, and those that are having to pay more to retain and recruit staff, yet are still called 'greedy' by the uninformed and downright unthinking for having the temerity to charge a price for beer that might give them a living margin.Delete
It is a catch 22 I think the single pub publican is the most affected over here in Ireland my regular’s Publican is the main barman, sells on draught small independents beer, keeps the pub as it was and is doing a good trade.Delete
January gone was the busiest first month I've known for since I started brewing and all whilst in the midst of some cost of living crisis.ReplyDelete
The local beer festival was the busiest it has been, possibly because it was the first time back since the virus of unspecified origin hit, but not even uppity train workers could stop people coming.
Local towns haven't seen any drop off in footfall.
And then what I hoped would be a quiet weekend in Chester was met with busy streets and pubs everywhere.
Like runs on petrol stations and now fruit and veg, a wag the dog scenario might have come about for our supposed rocky financial times, even though I still think pubs will close at relative levels as previous years and the brewery world has need to lose a good hundred or so in kind relative to demand.
Does anyone really believe any of the shite masquerading as news these days.ReplyDelete
My local is very busy, we haven't any food shortages due to Brexit, the OBR today admitted it was wrong in its November 2022 budget deficit prediction by a mere 33 billion pounds and so far yet we're not going to hell in a handcart.
If a journalist called to my door these days I'd empty a bedpan of the wife's piss all over them and I speak as some who earned a very good living as a scrivener.
We're doing ok.
I've been revisiting my old posts from 2016-17 and the striking thing is how empty many of the pubs were back then (to be fair I was often visiting during the day time). I've found many pubs very busy; our own local was completely full twice midweek recently without any obvious draw and Spoons have been busier than ever. Shops seem to be bearing the brunt of reduced spending power rather than pubs.
During lockdown, people worked out that they could buy a lot of stuff online - but they couldn't go to the pub.Delete
I'd also say that the mainstream supermarkets have lost a lot of business to Aldi and Lidl. I regularly pass my local Aldi and cars are queueing out on to the main road.
Agree with both points; also sense less "stuff" being bought, whether on-line or in shops. For just one example, I pay a subscription to stream music but don't buy physical records. Live music, like pubs, has rebounded well but there's a question whether musicians can make a career out of it without physical sales.Delete
I think the last line of your blog nails it.ReplyDelete
There are plenty of people struggling as there have been plenty of people living hand to mouth for a while and price rises without pay rises is going to hit them.
But there are plenty of people, like me, that sat at home coining furlough, with nothing to spend our money on because travel, restaurants and pubs were all closed. I saved enough to buy a new kitchen and bathroom. And yes it's an industrial standard toilet.
I've enough to splash on travel this year and am keen on a few breaks to reacquaint myself with favourite exotic places of the world that do proper english grub and beer. Might as well spend it whilst it's still got some value. Saving a pound is 80p of future value not £1.20. Might as well get a skin full of spanish lager down me this summer, and ale it up here in Blighty most weekends whilst a pound is a pound.
If a the price of a pint keeps going up, I'll favour those boozers that keep their prices keen, but you can't take it with you.
My experiences over the last 4 months in places including Cardiff,Bristol,the Black Country,Birmingham,Sheffield and Swindon have shown that pubs,brewery tap rooms and restaurants have been busy with customers spending freely. I believe that the gloom and doom has been overdone,however,some non financial assistance is needed to deal with problems where businesses in the leisure industry were forced to accept energy supply contracts on onerous terms by energy suppliers last Autumn. Assistance can be given by the regulator ordering the suppliers to cancel and re-negotiate the supply agreementsReplyDelete
Oh, I'm well aware of the inflationary pressures facing pubs, especially on energy prices, but to make generalised comments on that would go outside the scope of this blog and probably annoy a lot of people.Delete
Speaking of GBG selection, how's that working out? I believe that only pubs that have been scored under NBSS are eligible to be selected, so there would be a risk of a pub that has excellent beer but few or no scores being passed over for consideration?ReplyDelete
If a pub has no NBSS scores, how does anyone know whether or not it serves good beer? Obviously this does discriminate against less visited or more remote pubs, but in they absence of hard evidence you end up including pubs purely because of a subjective belief that they are "good pubs". I suspect one or two branches do make exceptions on sentimental grounds.Delete
This is the problem on Tyneside and Northumberland. There are some excellent newer cask outlets with great beer but they risk being passed over because they aren't visited and scored often. Apparently sentimental grounds aren't allowed up here.Delete
I thought it tended to be more the case that the members flocked to the new venues at the expense of the more established ones. In some parts of the country you get the impression that any micropub actually able to serve drinkable beer will get at least one year in the Guide.Delete
That's certainly true too.Delete
Another GBG year, another four new (for me) Newcastle Guide entries. It never stops. Not complaining, they're almost always good.Delete