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Thread: Who should decide if a pub stays or goes?

  1. #1
    Former Pubs Galore Coder
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    Default Who should decide if a pub stays or goes?

    Shamelessly stealing a question from Ed's blog.

    I found it quite interesting, but then I would as I am frequently known to be bemused by what CAMRA do.

    The comments are getting nicely heated, and Ed is promising to add more of his own thoughts later.

  2. #2
    Old & Bitter oldboots's Avatar
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    I've followed the arguments on Ed's Blog and the CAMRA forum and I don't think there's an easy answer to the question even without going into the pros and cons of the Rhydspence Inn.

    While I would normally defend a person's rights to dispose of their own property as they see fit there is the point that a pub has a social amenity dimension, especially in rural areas, and every effort should be made to preserve that, the difficulty is to reconcile this with the owners rights.

    We have all, probably, had experience of a failed pub that has become a success with a new owner so the argument that the present owner is the best judge of a pub's viability is at best rather suspect. Sadly there are also cases where an owner has deliberately run down a pub to “prove” it un-viable and gain planning permission for a change of use. Most of us in rural areas have also had the experience of various people complaining that the local pub is going to close, the most vocal of course being those who visit once a year, if ever, a classic example of “use it or lose it” being ignored.

    The most problematical point is that of value, that is when a pub is worth more as a house or development site than as a business, especially a failed business. So should a community lose a valuable amenity for private profit? That is certainly the way of the world but “society” must decide if it puts more than a monetary value on certain things and arrange planning law in accordance.

    As far as CAMRA is concerned it is a consumer organisation and has a set of objectives laid out in its “Memorandum and Articles of Association” in accordance with the Companies Act 1985. The most relevant objective for pub preservation is probably;

    To ensure in every manner possible that producers and retailers of beer act in the best interests of the customer.

    A closed pub is not usually in the best interests of the customer.

    The central policy statement applicable is that CAMRA believes pubs should not be closed for purely economic reasons because of their social and community asset and amenity aspects.

    Those fundamental points are the basis for campaigning about pub closures, not some whim to keep failed pubs open at all costs or portray some poor landlord as an evil, selfish, mean-spirited profiteer.

    The possibility of CAMRA owning pubs still exists in its “Memorandum and Articles of Association” but, even supposing it could raise the loans required, should it? Should the Consumers Association run corner shops? Or rogue trader TV programmes become decorators, builders and plumbers? CAMRA did run a number of pubs in the mid 1970s through a subsidiary, I visited the Fox in Bristol then and thought it was a good pub but I don't know its trading history, I couldn't comment on CAMRA's expertise in running pubs, I can only vouch for the quality of their beer festivals and management of an annual income of over £2 million.

    The sad fact of course is that recent social and economic changes mean we have too many pubs for the available customer base so we all need to get out and drink in pubs a lot more. Let's make pub closures history!
    There are many diseases,
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    Covid19! is one by name
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  3. #3
    Inndigestion Strongers's Avatar
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    I’m against any pub being closed that I haven’t visited yet

    On the CAMRA note, I think that they do a great job on the ale front which apparently wouldn’t be here anymore if it wasn’t for them, but I’ve been behind the bar during one of their meets and if their ale consumption was the norm the pub would have folded. The yoof of today may get slated, but one 20 year old on alcopops will spend the same in an evening as a whole tribe of sandal wearing beardies!
    WE ARE THE BREADMEN - UP THE BEES

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by oldboots View Post
    I've followed the arguments on Ed's Blog and the CAMRA forum and I don't think there's an easy answer to the question even without going into the pros and cons of the Rhydspence Inn.

    While I would normally defend a person's rights to dispose of their own property as they see fit there is the point that a pub has a social amenity dimension, especially in rural areas, and every effort should be made to preserve that, the difficulty is to reconcile this with the owners rights.

    We have all, probably, had experience of a failed pub that has become a success with a new owner so the argument that the present owner is the best judge of a pub's viability is at best rather suspect. Sadly there are also cases where an owner has deliberately run down a pub to “prove” it un-viable and gain planning permission for a change of use. Most of us in rural areas have also had the experience of various people complaining that the local pub is going to close, the most vocal of course being those who visit once a year, if ever, a classic example of “use it or lose it” being ignored.

    The most problematical point is that of value, that is when a pub is worth more as a house or development site than as a business, especially a failed business. So should a community lose a valuable amenity for private profit? That is certainly the way of the world but “society” must decide if it puts more than a monetary value on certain things and arrange planning law in accordance.

    As far as CAMRA is concerned it is a consumer organisation and has a set of objectives laid out in its “Memorandum and Articles of Association” in accordance with the Companies Act 1985. The most relevant objective for pub preservation is probably;

    To ensure in every manner possible that producers and retailers of beer act in the best interests of the customer.

    A closed pub is not usually in the best interests of the customer.

    The central policy statement applicable is that CAMRA believes pubs should not be closed for purely economic reasons because of their social and community asset and amenity aspects.

    Those fundamental points are the basis for campaigning about pub closures, not some whim to keep failed pubs open at all costs or portray some poor landlord as an evil, selfish, mean-spirited profiteer.

    The possibility of CAMRA owning pubs still exists in its “Memorandum and Articles of Association” but, even supposing it could raise the loans required, should it? Should the Consumers Association run corner shops? Or rogue trader TV programmes become decorators, builders and plumbers? CAMRA did run a number of pubs in the mid 1970s through a subsidiary, I visited the Fox in Bristol then and thought it was a good pub but I don't know its trading history, I couldn't comment on CAMRA's expertise in running pubs, I can only vouch for the quality of their beer festivals and management of an annual income of over £2 million.

    The sad fact of course is that recent social and economic changes mean we have too many pubs for the available customer base so we all need to get out and drink in pubs a lot more. Let's make pub closures history!
    Firstly, can I thank you for a dignified and intelligent response - something that is hard to come by these days.

    I accept that there is a history of landlords misleading people RE the viability of their business, but I don't believe that landlords should be portrayed in such a way as default. At the risk of being very offensive, if 80% of violent muggings were commuted by purple people with tangerine hair, would you accept every single purple person with tangerine hair being strip searched each time they were seen in public?

    As I've just responded on the CAMRA forum, it's more the tone of the piece that upsets me, coupled with the questions:

    How many Hereford CAMRA members had visited the Rhydspence in the last year? This really tickles my conkers, that a group supposedly about saving pubs only gives a *pint* when the pub is about to be shut down. And then they feel the need to tell the landlord it's his fault. Have they bothered to find out about his personal life in any small way whatsoever, in case that may have something to do with it?

    I consider myself a slightly successful publican, given that it's a family business and we're still doing reasonably well 4 years after taking over. But in all honesty, if it starting going wrong, we decided to sell at market prices and nobody took it on, to then be labelled a cheat and be told it was my fault the pub had lost its customers, I'd go nuts.

    I always accept responsibility - on the quiet nights like tonight when your nearly empty you start thinking 'what have I done wrong?'. When you take the dog for a walk, and see the other pubs just as quiet, there is a little relief, although I still drive myself to break the mould. But to have a consumer group tell you your the reason its all gone horribly wrong...

    Your last sentence is something I'd like to nick as my signature if I may!?

    Cheers
    *insert something clever/humorous/interesting here*

  5. #5
    Pub researcher (unpaid) rpadam's Avatar
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    I would be far more upset with CAMRA if they were not campaigning about pub closures.

  6. #6
    Inndigestion Strongers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eddie86 View Post
    How many Hereford CAMRA members had visited the Rhydspence in the last year? This really tickles my conkers, that a group supposedly about saving pubs only gives a *pint* when the pub is about to be shut down. And then they feel the need to tell the landlord it's his fault. Have they bothered to find out about his personal life in any small way whatsoever, in case that may have something to do with it?
    A couple of pubs were due to close in North West London in the past couple of years and the locals all banded together, with help from the local CAMRA members, and both pubs are still open. I think that the weight of the local support coupled with the direction of CAMRA worked really well, but if there is no local support I would hope that the planning application department will use their common sense.

    Nothing worse than others becoming offended on your behalf!
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpadam View Post
    I would be far more upset with CAMRA if they were not campaigning about pub closures.
    I actually disagree with this, I think that pubs are fairly academic to CAMRA. CAMRA should be interested in Real Ale, if it were interested in pubs I would suggest it devote a little less time to promoting the evil empire (otherwise known as JDW) and helped those plucky rebels in their independent real ale promoting pubs (sorry really enjoying the image of Tim Martin in a death star now). Or paying huge amounts to battle the beer tie on monopoly grounds (I have yet to understand how it constitutes a monopoly to force your product out at uncompetitive prices so that people buy from others).

    It seems ridiculous to say that a business should sell itself for less than it is worth, even if that worth is in the form of residential.

    Would it be sensible of me to suggest that CAMRA enter a program of house building so that it is not economical for landlords to convert their pubs into residential? Which to me makes as much sense as telling them they shouldn't be allowed to make money in a legal manner that is accepted in most other trades.

    * Disclaimer, I in no way hate JDW as much as this post implies, and I would most certainly welcome their advertising money

  8. #8
    Pub researcher (unpaid) rpadam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Conrad View Post
    I actually disagree with this, I think that pubs are fairly academic to CAMRA.
    We they don't, and to quote from the 'Pub Campaigning' page on their website:

    "The British pub is a cornerstone of our way of life, more popular than restaurants, clubs, cinemas or other entertainment. Whether you drink real ale or not, CAMRA works to protect the nation's pubs. CAMRA is not just about beer. We think the best place to enjoy a decent pint is in the pub and so we campaign in many ways to promote quality pubs. "

    I agree.

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    Ok, another one of those where I knew that I would regret being over dramatic in my phrasing.

    It is sensible that they care about pubs, and even better that they promote quality pubs (although would be better if they allowed us to promote their promotion of quality pubs ).

    Trying to keep open a failing pub though? And by failing I mean no one wants to run it as a pub and it is uneconomical to do so.

  10. #10
    Pub researcher (unpaid) rpadam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Conrad View Post
    Trying to keep open a failing pub though? And by failing I mean no one wants to run it as a pub and it is uneconomical to do so.
    That's one angle on this, but the other is trying to close a viable pub because it is worth more as residential (in rural areas and villages) or as an 'express'/'local' supermarket (in the suburbs). Run it down, market it as a business but at an inflated price, claim it's unviable, get planning permission for a change of use and kerching - you're in the money!

    Not always easy to tell which is the case...

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