Mulholland: "Enough of the pubco fairy stories

Related tags Pub Greg mulholland Leeds north west Pub group

I have found that there are few better such tales than those peddled by increasingly desperate figures in the pub trade to justify unsustainable...

I have found that there are few better such tales than those peddled by increasingly desperate figures in the pub trade to justify unsustainable business practices.

One that has had a lot of coverage recently is that freehouses are closing in greater numbers than tied pubco and big brewery pubs.

Presumably then the 'To Let' boards protruding from pubs up and down the country are purely decorative? Oh no, hang on, these are not actually closures, are they?

Just temporary ones, what is euphemistically called "churn" but each one is a sorry tale of small business failure and all too often human misery.

There is another clever trick. Sell the pub on or transfer ownership before the doors actually close. Then hey presto, it is the closure of a free-of-tie pub!

The most cunning way is to sell to a developer, with no interest in pubs, but when they close it, it counts as a non pub company freehouse!

But it is not just about overall figures. The pubs closing in greatest numbers are urban and suburban pubs away from town and city centres. Large town centre pubs, pub restaurants and idyllic country pubs will survive even these hard times, but the backstreet local will become a thing of the past.

These are predominantly owned by the big pubcos and breweries. These are the easiest to claim as "unviable", the easiest to get closures approved by local councils, the easiest to ignore campaigns to save them.

But the way the statistic is presented, it is another pub tragically lost because of beer duty, the recession, the smoking ban, changing habits. Anyone to blame but the company closing the pub.

Here is a simple, uncomfortable and deeply ironic fact. Some of those shouting loudest about the demise of the pub are the very people closing them. The very people selling them off for development. The very people slapping restrictive covenants on them so they can never again be a pub serving that community again.

So enough fairy stories. I will already have to tell my daughter when she is older that the pub I used to take her to when she was a baby closed when she was three.

It is a long and epic story including the usual rent hikes and changes of tenants, before being sold on to a property company who closed it when it was making money.

If only that was a fairy story and unless we have major reform, it could happen anywhere. A Britain without real 'local' pubs is a future we face and until we are honest about that and why it is happening, this is a chapter of the story of Britain that we will be too late to rewrite.

Greg Mulholland is MP for Leeds North West, and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group.

Related topics Legislation

Property of the week


£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more