Lichfield councillor calls for summit on the future of rural pubs

Cllr Matthew Ellis

Cllr Matthew Ellis

A Lichfield councillor is calling for a county-wide summit to debate the future of rural pubs.

Cllr Matthew Ellis (Cons, Shenstone) has urged landlords, breweries, drinkers and experts to come together to put together a long-term survival plan for the old-fashioned village inn.

And Cllr Ellis, who is also a Staffordshire County Councillor for Lichfield Rural East, believes that more must be done to support rural pubs – as long as they are viable businesses.

He explained:

“Latest figures suggest that this country is losing as many as 50 rural pubs each week. I do believe in market forces and fully subscribe to the principle that ‘if you don’t use it you risk losing it’, but more and more it seems that the ones closing, or under the threat of closure, in the area I represent are generally busy enough and are fundamentally viable businesses.

“It’s not completely clear what’s going on in reality. Some say the breweries are trying to force landlords out of business so they can sell the properties to try and bring down massive corporate debts whilst others believe it is simply a case of the breweries making sure they squeeze every drop of profits out of landlords at the expense of the business’ viability. The breweries deny it is any way due to their actions.

“Whatever the cause there’s a problem and pub after pub are closing. And that’s why I’m keen for the County to bring together landlords, breweries, industry experts and users for a Staffordshire Pub Summit to try and understand it better and find solutions.”

And Cllr Ellis believes that rural communities need their village pub. He added:

“Rural pubs aren’t generally places where yougsters go to drink themselves into oblivion they are important village amenities where communities come together and villages stay viable.

“In my view the ones that aren’t viable must sucumb to market forces but the ones people want and use should be given a level playing field to continue as businesses and community places.”

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

1 Comment

  1. Unconcerned Citizen

    27th October, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Well there’s only one thing for it….

    BEER SUBSIDIES ! !

    Well – i used to drink a fair amount, enough to be on good drinking terms with a few landlords.
    All pubs have generally seen harder times in recent years – of course the rural pub has a few extra problems such as accessability (no more drink driving).
    Rural areas have become more ‘upmarket’. Proffesional class commuters living in rural areas have less time for an evening beer in the woolpack.
    Mechanisation means less farm labourers to be thirsty at the end of the evening.

    Many People have less disposable income nowadays due to increased cost of housing – they are also working more hours meaning less drinking time. 30% tax in the pint has really pushed up prices – doubled in about 8 years by my estimates.It was this century i could get 3 pints and a bag of crisps for a fiver. Its now about a Tenner.

    No sooner than a landlord comes in and starts making a success of a pub, the brewery/pubcompany increase the rent and the barrel cost effectivly making the landlord/tenant merely a manager on less than minimum wage whilst carrying all the financial liabilities of the lease.

    When the monopolies commision got involved with the pubs in the late 80s? breweries had to sell pubs if they owned more than 2000. I am assuming the monopolies commision did this to ensure a fair, unrigged price for the punter rather than opportunities for shareholders. (how things can turn out!)
    Move forward almost twenty years and Punch Taverns now has over 8000 pubs.
    Pubcos get huge beer discounts from the breweries but don’t pass this on to the tenant. Ask what price a freeholder pays for a barrel and compare this to the tenants price. Find out what banks’ charge on a bitter barrel to thier tennants compared to a freeholder.
    Also – before the pubcos you had Brewery and Landlord being the chain of business.
    Enter the pubcos with flash offices, mangers, call centres and paperwork – its easy to see where the black hole in pub economics is. The middle man!
    Can these pub companies really add value and efficiency to justify thier existence? Of course some have…
    Judging by some pubcos debt levels – its clear they are scraping by and dragging everybody down with them.

    Like Cllr Ellis has said – market forces should decide whom stays open but it seems like breweries and pub companies are acting in a cartel like manner.
    In the meantime, drinkers, tenants and pub staff live in an uncertain world at the moment. Many of my firends have lost thier jobs without the required legal notice and often miss out on thier week in hand – even becomng homeless. This occurs the day suppliers won’t give anymore beer on credit.

    Best of luck though – i hope we can save our Urban pubs too.