Pubs battle on in fight for survival

Cam Krakow landlady at the Elm Cottage on Church Street in Gainsborough G110803-1a
Cam Krakow landlady at the Elm Cottage on Church Street in Gainsborough G110803-1a

CHEAP supermarket booze, crippling business rates, rising brewery costs and unemployment are all taking their toll on Gainsborough’s once thriving pubs, say landlords.

Boarded-up, empty pubs have become a common sight around Gainsborough with more than half a dozen closing in the past few years as the recession and other changes in culture have taken their toll.

Now, local, independent pubs say that with rocketing prices, dwindling customers and other changes, they are struggling to keep their heads above water.

Andrew Boulton is the former-landlord of Gainsborough Park on Glentham Road - previously known as The Nodding Donkey. Once a popular and busy pub, Gainsborough Park was forced to close two years ago.

“There are three main factors that have hit pubs hard,” said Andrew. “The first is 24-hour opening. That didn’t help at all. It didn’t give everybody the money to spend during the additional hours - it just meant that people were coming in at different times and there was no atmosphere.”

“It just spread business out very thinly during the rest of the day and increased the overheads landlords spend on heating, staff and electricity.”

Andrew continued: “The second is the supermarkets practically giving booze away. They’re often selling alcohol cheaper than we can buy it for through breweries. I was confident that I was giving a good a discount as anybody, but then you’d find supermarkets selling crates of 12 - 15 bottles or cans for next to nothing, and landlords aren’t allowed to buy that and sell it on.”

“I think that supermarkets should have a higher VAT on alcohol. That way everybody wins - the government and honest local pubs.”

Andrew said that the third main factor was a combination of things leading to a change in the culture of how people drink on nights out.

“When I was a lad, clubs and village halls would close at about 1am at the latest, so you’d leave your local at about 7pm or 8pm, but now with 24 hour drinking the clubs are staying open much later, youngsters are getting loaded on cheap booze from the supermarkets, using the pub as a meeting place at about 8 or 9 and then go and spend their money in clubs after spending most of it in supermarkets.”

He added: “They are going out with the prerequisite that they get drunk, so they’re getting drunk at home before they even go out - back in my day, being drunk used to be a bi-product of going out.”

Can Krakow is the landlady of The Elm Cottage on Church Street in Gainsborough, and she also says that inexpensive alcohol in shops and supermarkets is having an adverse effect.

“Not as many people are coming in as they used to,” she said. “People are getting a lot of their drinks from the supermarkets because it’s much cheaper so they’re drinking at home then going out afterwards.”

She continued: “The smoking ban hasn’t helped either, because the winter, the older people don’t really want to go outside to smoke. Beer prices are going up and up and we can’t do anything about that because the breweries are raising prices and we have to pass that on just to survive.”

She went on: “Business rates are also very expensive and then you’ve got to pay rent and everything is just going up.”

“Plus, with so many people out of work they can’t really afford to come out and unemployment is quite high in Gainsborough.”

Despite all of this, Cam says that she is determined to keep Elm Cottage open as a quality local pub at the heart of the community.

“Support your local pub,” she said. “We have a family friendly atmosphere, and that pub experience is something you can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “We have pub nights, entertainment, food and good all-round service - this is the sort of thing that needs to be supported.”

Regarding their pricing of alcohol, Morrissons spokesman Julian Bailey said: “We feel that with all products, we concentrate on value for money for our customers, and they expect the same from our alcoholic products.”

“We also have a policy of not pricing alcohol products below the price of duty and VAT so we do not encourage irresponsible drinking.”