Publicans fight for rural inns' future

publicans attended a meeting to help them cope with the impact of cheap sales of alcohol in supermarkets, taxes on alcohol and the smoking ban. The meeting organised by South Norfolk Council was attended by about 40 landlords and forms part of an initiative to to safeguard the future of rural pubs.

publicans attended a meeting to help them cope with the impact of cheap sales of alcohol in supermarkets, taxes on alcohol and the smoking ban.

The meeting organised by South Norfolk Council was attended by about 40 landlords and forms part of an initiative to to safeguard the future of rural pubs.

John Turner, of the Cross Keys pub in Wymondham, said it was a useful event and added: “There was a lot of anger in the room. The trade is getting a battering from every angle and 36 pubs a week nationally are closing.

“Supermarkets are selling alcohol in many cases less than the price of water.


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“Pubs are part of our heritage and they are disappearing quickly. Once they disappear they will never come back.”

The council has set up a taskforce to examine the factors leading to the success or demise of pubs and to consider whether the authority can offer any advice or assistance to licensees.

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Earlier this year, the Mercury reported that the council had canvassed the views of 103 landlords, with the survey revealing that publicans blame high rents, supermarket sales of cheap alcohol and taxes on alcohol for damaging their trade.

The conference and buffet lunch on Monday was an opportunity for publicans in the area to network with one another. There were also talks on issues identified by landlords such as business rates, trade waste and planning issues.

Suggestions already put forward by the publicans on how the council might help include: providing financial training or assistance, organising a pub of the year competition, and bringing political pressure to bear on the East of England Develop-ment Agency to provide funding for rural pubs.

Keith Weeks, chairman of the taskforce, said: “We had quite a good attendance and I believe everyone who came got something out of the meeting.”

He said it was hoped the networking aspect of the meeting would prove particularly useful.

“Having read through the questionnaire responses, my thinking was that there are some licensees who are doing better than others,” he said.

“Every situation is different. Some publicans have found ways of creating that extra footfall and I was hoping we could transfer some of these ideas to other pubs who perhaps have not thought of them.”

Mr Weeks said the council would also be looking in more detail at pub diversification following a presentation at the meeting by the Pub is the Hub organisation.

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