The Good Pub Guide is calling for “bad pubs” to close, to make way for more visionary and energetic licensees. Beer correspondent DAVID BALE looks at the guide and the issues it raises
PUBLISHED: 17:17 29 August 2013 | UPDATED: 17:17 29 August 2013
copyright: Archant 2013
It has not taken very long for the latest edition of the pub-goers’ Bible to become controversial.
The Good Pub Guide 2014 was published yesterday, but some of its editorial comments about the industry have already caused a storm of protest.
According to the guide, which is edited by Alisdair Aird and Fiona Stapley, up to 4,000 pubs across the country will close in the next year.
But the guide argues that these pubs are “stuck in the 1980s” and offer indifferent drink and food.
And it suggests that, while the closures may be bad news for staff and customers, it was high time “bad pubs” went out of business, giving visionary and energetic licensees a chance to open new ones.
It predicts that more than 1,000 new pubs will open next year, often in former hostelries that have been shut for years.
The guide’s stance has been attacked by licensees, who said it was a “sweeping statement” to dismiss pubs that are forced to close as “bad pubs” and accused the guide of chasing publicity.
Dawn Hopkins, landlady at the Rose in Queens Road and the Ketts Tavern in Ketts Hill, both in Norwich, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m absolutely appalled that the Good Pub Guide has decided to publicise itself by just slating the pub industry when there’s so many things against us at the moment.
“The problem is yes, there are a few rubbish pubs out there – but there are also some very good pubs and good pub landlords that we’ve lost and it’s nothing to do with them being bad pubs, it’s to do with what’s happening in the industry.”
She said that landlords were facing high rents and competition from cheap supermarket alcohol, among other problems. And she warned that without money coming into the industry it was not easy to improve.
Roger Protz, editor of the Campaign for Real Ale’s 2014 Good Beer Guide, who has previously praised the quality and quantity of Norfolk’s pubs, also criticised the editors.
He said: “How bizarre that a book called the Good Pub Guide should welcome the closure of as many as 4,000 pubs. Pubs need to be saved, not thrown on the scrapheap.”
But Colin Keatley, who owns the Fat Cat in Norwich, one of the pubs featured in the new guide, has taken a different stance.
He said: “The reason so many pubs are closing is because we live in a different world from that of 1985 or 1990. There are far more things for people to do. There are more activities for younger people, so they are not going to the pub with their old man.
“While a lot of pubs have closed, there are still a lot around. There are three pubs within a couple of minutes of my pub.
“I think some people are missing the point when they complain about pubs closing. A lot of these pubs have had their day and are past it.”
Meanwhile, Matthew Palmer, food and beverage manager at the Crown in Southwold, another pub praised in the new guide, said he could see both sides, saying: “It is a tough game and we accept how hard the industry is. But on the other hand, if you do put the hard work in, you have a better chance of surviving.”
The guide said standards were rising in pubs amid increasing vocational training among staff but called for them to name their chefs on menus as part of moves to close the “absurd status gap” between TV chefs and those working in pubs.
A survey by the guide showed a 65p difference in the price of a pint of beer between Staffordshire, the cheapest, and London, the most expensive, with the average pint across the UK costing £3.20. Beer brewed by pubs themselves on the premises typically cost 40p a pint less than the local average, it found.