Good Pub Guide 2015: Trade 'finally booming' after years of doom and gloom

By Ellie Bothwell contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Beer, Public house, Alcoholic beverage

Guide editors say the pub scene has changed from the days of 'decrepit boozers will dull beer and freezer-pack food'
Guide editors say the pub scene has changed from the days of 'decrepit boozers will dull beer and freezer-pack food'
Pub visionaries that have adapted to changing pressures are to thank for the nationwide improvement from “decrepit boozers with dull beer” to thriving businesses with innovative ideas. That is the message of the Good Pub Guide 2015, which is out today.

Guide editors Alisdair Aird and Fiona Stapley said the pub scene is “finally booming after years of doom and gloom”, because more publicans realise their businesses have to evolve and they have to listen to what customers want.

“The pub scene has changed utterly from the days of decrepit boozers with dull beer and freezer-pack food to a thriving industry that’s now finding ingenious ways of pleasing millions of new customers. And this transformation has taken place against a background of hard economic times that have driven many less-alert pub businesses to the wall,” Aird and Stapley wrote in the guide’s introduction.

Latest figures from the Campaign for Real Ale report that 31 pubs are closing every week, but the authors said many others are being reopened by “visionary and energetic new licensees”.

It is a change in stance from last year’s introduction in which it was declared that between 2,500 and 4,000 pubs would justifiably go out of business in the following year because they were “stuck in the 1980s”.


Stapley said she does not know how many pubs now need to close, but it is “really good news” that some of the pubs doing badly last year have thought of new ideas and “saved themselves”.

“There’s no point trying to compete against cheap supermarket deals so licensees have to be really innovative to think of ways of drawing customers in and then keeping them there — like events, food deals, talks from local brewers, afternoon tea,” Stapley told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser​.

“I know it’s hard work, but pubs that are doing this are reaping the rewards. During the past year we’ve spoken to thousands of publicans who say they feel much more optimistic about the future.”

She added that, since the smoking ban, licensees have also started to think much more about appealing to women by improving décor, introducing food and offering a greater choice of drinks, including wines and soft drinks.

Pub superheroes

Stapley and Aird selected seven “pub superheroes”, who they describe as being at the forefront of key developments in the trade.

  • Bill Sharp, founder of Sharp's Brewery — “inspiring a new generation of craft brewers”
  • Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King — “showing how a national brewer with 1,600 pubs can flourish”
  • Jocelyn Ridley, licensee of the Compassess Inn in Chelmsford, Essex — “champion of the unspoilt traditional pub”
  • Tim Martin, founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon — “a powerful voice in giving us good value food and drink”
  • Andres Alemany, co-owner and chef at Purefoy Arms in Preston Candover, Hampshire — “top of the new tapas tree”
  • Jeremy Brunning and Graham Price, of Brunning & Price — “never satisfied with less than all-round excellence”

Speaking of JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin’s inclusion in the list, Stapley said: “They’re cherry, slightly rough-and-ready pubs, with good value beer and food —maybe not the sort of pubs our readers would like — but he has made a tremendous impact.”

The 33rd edition of the guide features more than 5,000 pubs and has 121 new entries.

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Get your Booming facts right .....

Posted by Adrian Hobbs,

If Bob Blanford below is "a long standing pub guide writer" etc then he should know that CAMRA (from Planet Earth) does not have anything to do with the production of the Good Pub Guide ....
Try the Good Beer Guide for some accurate opinions and unpaid for entries into this excellent tome..... I must confess however to longing for the days of a back street boozer that served up (dull ?)local beer and cheese and onion cobs with a game of darts and dommies ....

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Posted by JANE TAYLOR,

We have a small commununity wet pub and, yes, we have seen an improvement in trade but I wouldnt say the trade was booming. No way! We are still below what we were doing in 2007 when we sold our previous pub and I dont think we'll ever get back to how trade was then (all of 7 years ago). Social trends have certainly changed. More people opt to eat out these days (we have bred a lazy generation) and so stay and have a couple of drinks with their meal rather than spend the evening in their local wet pub. The costs of running a pub have increased (we pay £1000 per month just on Sky & BT Sports) so that removes some of the 'increased' profit we are supposed to be taking. In our case, we have either kept prices competetive or had to reduce some prices to compete with the eating houses who often run drinks promotions alongside their food offerings. I still say though that our main competitor remains to be supermarkets. They really should be forced to stop selling beer and alcohol for below cost and should remain in line with pub prices. It will never happen though because supermarkets obviously contribute heavily to the Government via taxes.

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Dear CAMRA this is Planet Earth. Come and visit us sometime

Posted by Bob Blandford,

Just wondering if the people at CAMRA ever visit Planet Earth once in a while? I ask the question in the wake of the comment ‘…the pub trade is finally booming after years of doom and gloom’. Booming, no less…. oh aye? I don't think that'll be the view of the recently-departed gaffers of dozens of Worcester pubs including the Lakes or the Cavalier – both closed in the last fortnight – or the Coppertops, due to close at Christmas? As long-standing pub guide writer, beer blogger, author and publisher of pub books, the invitation to visit us stands: we look forward to seeing you at some stage during the next 10,000 light years. Blog refers:

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