Pubs minister tells landlords and public they must work together to save Norfolk pubs

Brandon Lewis meeting publicans and people involved in the pub trade to discuss their problems.

Picture: James Bass Brandon Lewis meeting publicans and people involved in the pub trade to discuss their problems. Picture: James Bass

Lauren Rogers lauren.rogers@archant.co.uk
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
6:00 AM

Describing Norfolk’s pubs as a quintessential part of the county’s past, present and future, pubs minister Brandon Lewis has told landlords he is on their side.

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Brandon Lewis meeting publicans and people involved in the pub trade to discuss their problems.

Picture: James BassBrandon Lewis meeting publicans and people involved in the pub trade to discuss their problems. Picture: James Bass

But at a meeting with the Great Yarmouth MP last night, east coast landlords spoke frankly about their fight for survival – blaming business rates and a constant battle against supermarket deals for “crippling” the industry.

The meeting at the Furzedown Hotel, on Yarmouth seafront, came the day after Mr Lewis included pubs in a government campaign to highlight the best of Britain.

Landlords told Mr Lewis that while scrapping the much maligned beer duty escalator and cutting a penny off a pint in this year’s Budget have helped, they still face a day-to-day struggle.

Philip Taylor of the Tramway in Gorleston – who was the first landlord in Norfolk to gain a 24-hour licence when running the Duke’s Head in High Street from 1999 to 2006 – said: “I am not thinking about five years time. I am thinking about the present, because I don’t know if I will still be running this pub in five years.”

Barry Austin, landlord of the St John’s Head in Yarmouth, a freehouse, said the “killer” was low cost alcohol sold in bulk by the major supermarkets.

“We get canned if we want to do a ‘drink as much as you like for £10’ or even our Happy Hours which are under pressure now, but you’re telling me that the supermarkets selling low cost crates of beer is not irresponsible? They are selling spirits at £12 a litre. This is where the binge drinking problem is coming from.”

Mr Lewis, who said it was refreshing to hear from “publicans on the frontline”, told the landlords he recognised the problem with supermarkets selling at low cost, but warned that to interfere would be crossing a line.

“We’re talking about crossing a rubicon if the government starts to tell private companies how to run their business and that’s a dangerous line to cross,” said Mr Lewis.

“There is an element of corporate responsibility here.

“I support minimum cost [the introduction of minimum price for a unit of alcohol sold by retailers as well as pubs] but it doesn’t necessarily stop low cost sales.”

When asked how local pubs were expected to cope with “unfair” business rates, Mr Lewis said the decision to delay re-evalution until 2015 was because doing it now would be a “nightmare” for many pub owners.

“I can’t say we are changing it or this is what will happen,” he said, “but I can say we are looking at it.”

Mr Lewis said that, by including local pubs in the coalition’s wider ‘GREAT Britain’ campaign – which highlights the best of the UK from business to sport and culture, more people will recognise their village watering hole or town centre local, whether it is an traditional inn or community-owned venture, as a vital part of the country’s economic, social and cultural landscape.

“They pack a powerful economic punch,” he said, adding that a successful pub could contribute around £100,000 to its local economy every year.

“In Britain we have known for hundreds of years just how valuable our locals are – not just a place for grabbing a pint but also to the economies and communities of those they serve. The Great British pub is recognised around the world as a quintessential part of British culture.

“But if we don’t use them we will lose them.”

22 comments

  • Repeal the smoking ban. That would be a start...

    Report this comment

    Lord Elf

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • Reversing the smoking ban should be the FIRST thing that should be done. This is one of the things that is killing the pub trade.

    Report this comment

    Lord Elf

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • What about the greedy "pubco's" then ?. What about the tax on beers etc ?. What about the extortionate rates, utility and sky charges then ?. The list is endless and Lewis just comes out with the party line whereas nothing will be done until 2015 when they will probably be thrown out of office.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • Seems to be a block to further comment.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • A BIG NO !!! to bringing back smoking. As a musician who plays in pubs, it is great to be able to breath properly when singing and not inhaling a lung full of second hand smoke. The pubco's are the main problem, middle managers who do next to nothing appart from get the landlord to work for nothing. Force the supermarkets to sell at proper prices or better still go back to the 'off licence' ... also the business rates and rents cripple the publicians. too many 'snouts in the trough'. A pub should be part of a community, sadly I can't afford them now, well only once a week or a special occation..

    Report this comment

    musicman

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • Hang on a minute. The minister appears to think it is wrong for the government to tell supermarkets how to run their business, but perfectly OK to impose a blanket ban on pubs being able to cater for smokers, their partners and their friends. What on earth did they expect to happen after the smoking ban?

    Report this comment

    cynical

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • Four of the country pubs run by members of my family in the late 19th early 20th C are now closed.Another remains open-it was trying to be a gastropub last time I looked. Since even ag labs and brick makers could not have sunk more pints than the average drinker these days it has to be pub companies and business rates killing the pubs, just as business rates close shops.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • Why should Publicans expect the Government to help them overcome legitimate competitors, To make the Public pay more for goods at Supermarkets in an attempt to try and get them to return using outdated Public Houses is crazy.

    Report this comment

    Orson Carter

    Thursday, August 1, 2013

  • Brandon Lewis is to the pub trade , what Norman Lamb is to the health service .

    Report this comment

    dragonfly

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • Is Brandon Lewis's title really "Minister for Pubs", or "Secretary of State for Pubs"? I'm not sure I've come across this cabinet position before!!

    Report this comment

    gilded beams

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • The best way to save Norfolk pubs. especially those in villages is to slap conservation orders and change of use bans on all which we want to keep because of historical or community importance.This would signal to the carpet bagging development companies that they are not going to be allowed to buy a lovely old pub with a big garden, put in a fake manager , run the business down deliberately and cook the books and then covert it to residential and build on the gardens and car parks. Where a pub has such an order it should be granted a reduction in business rates and allowed some flexibility in the way it conducts business. Micro breweries opening just a days a week for instance with the premises being the free holders main home. I dont think supermarkets are the problem, I think it is the drink drive laws, the lack of trade from " charabanc" trips ( a pub I know once did a roaring trade with them but is shut now) and the changing face of our villages where the working man is driven out by those too twee for the local. I wish I had a pub I liked within walking distance-but Sky Sports and game machines are not my cup of tea, but I accept that is what the landlady has to do to survive.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • close down half of them, the remaining half will have doulble the punters

    Report this comment

    billythebookie

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • Pubs are still closing at an alarming rate. With a pint of beer priced at, typically, £3.30 with prices already touching £4.00 for more "upmarket" brews, it`s just getting too expensive. Only the fittest will survive, and Pubcos will leech the life out of their own sector, leaving Wetherspoon`s and efficient privateers to clean up. There is now a market sector which is less price sensitive but these Sommelier-minded middle-class newbees won`t be going into drab, depressing, run-down Pubco places run by stressed out lessees.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • more like what King Herod as to babies.

    Report this comment

    Edmund Earle

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • It is the the smoking ban that is killing our pubs and clubs. Before the ban the majority of rugular punters were smokers and no business can survive when the majority of its customers are not welcome.

    Report this comment

    chas winfield

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • It's not the low cost alcohol its the state of the pub and the client's that us them. I use a very well run local pub.. The beer is looked after.. no loud mouth drugtaking youngsters..! The people that use supermarkets are not the one's you want to have in a pub..!!

    Report this comment

    marshall

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • more like what King Herod as to babies.

    Report this comment

    Edmund Earle

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • This Government should do what they do in some states in Canada No supermarket is alowed to sell Beer or Spirits they have Government run stores that sell beer and spirits and it also cuts down the underage drinking All Bars in Canada are cheaper than the Government stores.

    Report this comment

    Dave

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • Most of the blame goes on PubCo's who screw the publican with inflated beer prices and ridiculous terms and conditions. In Hopton there are two pubs, one a freehold and the other a part of a localised chain.The freehouse is a whole pound cheaper per pint than the localised chain pub.Greedy pubco and greedy bosses who always know that if one landlord fails another mug will always be ready to jump in and give it a go.Win win for the pubco.

    Report this comment

    wes1975

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • cynical, I detest smoking. It is malodorous and it killed my missus. But a lot of publicans invested in smoke traps\filters at great expense in their designated smoking areas. Then were hung out to dry anyway. Either incompetence\inability to do joined up thinking or a means of making money for some lobbyists in the smoke trap industry. Now children - who should NOT be in most pubs - are subjected to more exposure to carcinogens at home. Until smoking in your own home is banned. But that`d undermine the painting and decorating sector. Not to mention the tobacco industry and its arch-protagonist, The Hon. Kenneth Clark, MP.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • more like what King Herod as to babies.

    Report this comment

    Edmund Earle

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

  • Two friends of mine, a couple who had a decent career\business, several years ago asked me to go out with them to view pubs. They were thinking of taking an Inntrepreneur lease. Every pub we looked at was in a dilapidated condition, with the "Full repairing lease" leaving them vulnerable to a less than perfect survey. I told them it was a path to suicide. They didn`t do it and they continue to succeed at what they still do. The Pubcos are charlatans.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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