Speaking to The Morning Advertiser at the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF), licensees outlined their beliefs about what the priorities for the organisation ought to be in the next 12 months.
Gary Barnett, owner of the Gate pub in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, said that campaigning to further reduce beer duty is essential to get more young people into real ale and prevent pub closures.
“The big problem you’ve got in pubs is that there are a lot of people who only go to the pub now and again, and they all think that every pub is the same price,” he said. “Every pub has its own pricing schedule, but a Greene King pub across from the road from us is charging £5 for a pint of lager, it’s just too much.
“The most important thing is real ale, and a lot more younger people are drinking it now, and if the beer duty comes down, the price of ale will come down. There are loads of pubs still shutting – we’ve had four shut in our village. We’re lucky to have a brewery as well as a pub, and a lot of pubs are turning to food now. You can’t just be a pub anymore.”
Cask comes at a price
Craig Beeson, director of the Royal Oak in Tunbridge Wells and chairman of the West Kent branch of CAMRA, said education and further action on business rates were his two key priorities for the organisation.
“CAMRA simply has to promote further recognition of how important cellar management is with regards to cask ale,” he said. “It’s vitally important to get people to recognise cellar care is an essential part of the process of serving cask ale and it comes with a price.”
“The other thing, and I know they’ve done some work on this already, is regarding business rates revaluations. I think there’s still a long way to go in terms of addressing the fundamental issues. We are still losing more than 20 pubs a week and an important aspect of that is business rates.
“Pubs pay 2.8% of the UK business rates, yet only account for 0.5% of business. They’re paying at least three times the rates they should and that is contributing to the number of pub closures and that is what I would like to see CAMRA taking further action on.”
Micky Rush, owner of NauticAles micropub in Ramsgate, Kent, urged CAMRA to do more to support the nation’s growing number of pubs that brew their own beer.
“Micropubs are going to be the new sensation in this country, it is going to go viral,” he said. They are an attraction to ordinary pub owners all over the country that want to become a freehouse and want to start their own business in a small way, looking after the local community.
“I would like to see CAMRA support that, support this new concept. As much as they support all of the big pub companies, let us see them support smaller independent pubs, and these fantastic small microbrewers.”
CAMRA has also confirmed it is investigating after Marble brewery alleged that their beers had beer "blacklisted" from this year's event.