During 2009, shop closures and pub closures were at record levels, with 1,000 rural shop closures predicted for the year and pub closure rates (urban and rural) at 2,400. And it is predicted that some 2,700 pubs are likely to shut down during 2010, so that one pub now closes every three hours, with big consequences for the lives of local communities.
I was in Salford a few nights ago to visit Britain’s first urban co-operative pub, the Star, and our newest member. There had been four other pubs locally but all had closed, when the community were given three weeks notice by the pub chain that the Star was going to close and be put up for auction. Local people, like Jim Simpson (left), clubbed together to raise the money to buy the Star for community use. Behind the bar, Sue, who had worked there for thirty years, got her old job back and the doors reopened.
The pub closure rate has increased over recent years, from 316 net closures in 2006, to 1,409 in 2007 and 1,866 in 2008. The UK currently has around one pub for every 1,100 people, but pubs stand or fall by being local. Surveys show that consumers are less concerned with what drinks are on offer than that the ‘local’ is in fact local. As the profitability of pubs has become harder to sustain, the risk is that the UK will reach a tipping point of closures, in both rural and urban settings. With at least 5,000 recorded pub names, from the Round of Carrots to the Strawberry Duck, the Jolly Taxpayer to the Mad Dog, we are also losing cultural diversity – what is distinctive to local areas.
With help from colleagues, I have co-written a report out today, Calling Time on Pub Closures, with Julian Ross, who was behind the UK’s first co-operative pub, the very successful Old Crown in Cumbria. It is an inspiring story of communities fighting back.