Martyn Hillier, owner of the Butcher’s Arms in Herne, Kent — reputed to be the country’s first micropub when it opened in 2005 — said most of the people who run the venues don’t have experience in the trade but that doesn’t matter because “it’s easy”.
“There are some basic rules but it’s not rocket science to look after beer. And it’s better if they’re new people to the trade because they look at it from a new angle,” he said.
“But some of them are coming from pubcos and realising they can run their own freehouse where no one tells them what to do or how much rent to pay.
“You don’t have to sell particular beers, you just listen to what the customers want. If the rateable value is below £6,000, you don’t have to pay any business rates. And if you keep below a certain turnover, you don’t have to pay VAT on sales either.
“You can make it profitable without breaking the bank. Regular pubs are going downhill.”
He said there are now 72 “true to the cause” micropubs in the UK, following three openings this month, and there “should be 100 open by the end of the year”.
Based on an estimate that each pub turns over £60,000 a year, he said this means the collective turnover of micropubs will reach £6m.
The founder of the Micropub Association also controversially said that bars are “the worst thing in the world in a pub”.
“Bars mean that customers have their back to everyone. In my pub, customers sit down around a table and I’ll come serve you like in a restaurant. It brings the community together and means everyone talks to each other.”
'We don't do fighting in micropubs'
He added that the soporific effect of real ale, which is a key ingredient in micropubs, means that they are also venues that create very little trouble.
“As soon as a building becomes a pub, authorities panic and think about lager drinking and live music. Energy drinks with vodka are just designed to get you buzzing all night. That’s where drinking in pubs has gone wrong.
“Well, we don’t do fighting in micropubs, we don’t sell lager and we don’t do music. It’s just like a coffee shop that sells real beer. I have four beers on in mine and we can comfortably fit in about 18 people.Every one (micropub) that has opened is still going,” he said.