Stephen Magorrian: Don't hold out for help from Darling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Industry, Want

Just under a year ago, when the magnitude of the financial crisis started to become apparent, Alistair Darling reduced VAT to 15 per cent in an...

Just under a year ago, when the magnitude of the financial crisis started to become apparent, Alistair Darling reduced VAT to 15 per cent in an initiative to stimulate the economy. At the same time however, he increased the duty on alcohol. So no help for our industry.

Soon, the rate of VAT is due to return to 17.5 per cent. Will Mr Darling reduce the duty on alcohol to correspond with the increase in VAT? I sincerely hope our representative bodies are encouraging him to do so, but I wouldn't hold out much hope. VAT will go up and we, as an industry and individual businesses, will be faced with the question of whether to increase prices (again) or absorb this additional cost. One more problem to add to so many.

The apparent reluctance of the government to help our industry on this and many other issues - as well as its appetite to legislate more and more - is the biggest issue for me.

It is clear that there is no real understanding of the positives we bring to society as a whole. The abuse of alcohol seems to be the only thing on the agenda and I long for the day when it becomes a point on the agenda only. But how do we get there?

I think we have to stop looking for help and start helping ourselves. We have to stop getting involved in battles that we can't win. We were never going to stop the smoking ban and we certainly aren't going to overturn it. Similarly, we won't ever be able

to sell alcohol as cheaply as the supermarkets. Yet on both these points we keep complaining and asking for someone to do something about it. It isn't going to happen.

And what's worse, the public at large don't believe us; they don't understand our industry, they don't know about the costs involved. They think we take money home in wheelbarrows and then, when we complain, we're just moaning publicans. This doesn't encourage them to visit pubs.

All this has to stop. We need to help ourselves, we need to focus on the positives of our industry, and we need to self-promote. I was asked a question recently which stumped me for a while: "If there was one thing which could turn the fortunes of our industry, what would it be?" I thought for a while and then I answered, "More publicans".

I think that's what our industry needs at this time, more publicans, passionate people who understand that customers don't go to pubs to eat and drink, they go for the sociability and the experience. They want to be with real friends in a real atmosphere. We've got to get back to basics, focus on our customers and ensure they want to come back again and again.

People will return because of how they are made to feel. We must make them feel wanted. If we can do that and find ways to promote the positives of our industry then maybe we will start to get the help we deserve.

Related topics: Other operators

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