Andrew Pring, Editor
Pubs have long seen themselves as a popular British institution. They've felt secure in the affections of their community, providing comfy meeting places to unwind and relax and socialise. And beyond that inestimable service, pubs have always been the country's leading charity collectors, donating multi-millions each year to worthy causes. With more than 80% of the population dropping in at least once a month, little wonder that pubs felt loved.
How shocking, then, to discover that things are not as rosy as they seemed. Media hostility to pubs in the past few months has been traumatic. To go from favourite uncle, so to speak, to wicked stepfather in such a short space of time is deeply unsettling, and extremely damaging to the morale and self-esteem of the nation's licensees.
More practically, the negative media onslaught has been scuppering pubs' attempts to use the new Licensing Act to extend their hours. What seemed a shoo-in all those months ago - an extra hour at the weekends now seems a complete impossibility in some areas, such is the local resistance of neighbours, or in some cases police, to the extension bid.
Why have the locals turned against their pubs? The answer is they probably haven't the basic affection is still there, but it's just that no-one living near a pub really wants that extra hour or two in case it wrecks their sleep. And because licensees have been forced by the Act to apply for more hours than they will regularly use, they've scared the neighbours more than they needed to. That scare has been heightened by the media picture of pubs producing 'piss, puke and punch-ups. But even in previous times, pubs in residential areas have always had a potentially uneasy relationship with their local.
If licensees are guilty of one thing, though, it's that too often they've not reached out beyond their customers. Licensees must act as local ambassadors, showing their community they have nothing to fear because these are well-run pubs.
Promoting the integrity of our individual licensees is the best image campaign we could possibly have. It's up to each and everyone running a pub to restore that place in the heart of the community.