outside the Nellie Chris Williamson

Chris Williamson

England is full of traditional pubs, full of the murmur of voices chatting over a real ale, or enjoying a traditional pub lunch. But indie pubs are now closing country-wide, overtaken by chain pubs like Wetherspoons (which don’t even allow dogs outside their pubs) and those that take seats away to encourage ‘vertical drinking’ so people drink faster so buy more booze, to increase profits.

It also doesn’t help that England has some of the highest beer tax in Europe. Reducing this could help indie breweries to thrive, rather than being overtaken in profits by the big multi-national companies (even Guinness is not Irish, despite the marketing spiel).

Obviously refuse to use single-use plastic. Just use real cups and plates, and wash them up! The new single-use-plastic ban has now come into force, so it’s illegal anyway now to offer plastic straws etc. Also  use biodegradable cleaning and laundry products, and offer locally-sourced food to support local farmers.

serve vegan-friendly beers & wines

small beer brew co

In addition, there are issues with the ingredients that go into many pub drinks. Make it easy for all customers, and just make all your beers, ciders and wines vegan-friendly (most spirits are by default). This means refusing brands that use bone char or isinglass to filter out sediment, and switching to better brands that filter naturally and have superior taste. Stroud Brewery offers vegan keg beers (for no or low alcohol), try Lucky Saint and The Small Beer Co.

Run a brewery? Update your methods like Yorkshire’s Brass Castle Brewery, who say it’s possible to brew wonderful beers using vegan-friendly methods (and that includes cask ales). Step in the 21st century and boot isinglass out of your beer! Not only does it ‘go off’ quickly, but this brewery say adding ‘icky gloop created from the swim bladder of fish is disgusting’ and we agree!

Instead of plastic bottled water, serve free tap water from Frank water coolers or Belu water filters (both use profits to bring clean fresh water to others).  No plastic and does some good too.

serve good plant-based pub grub

vegan Ploughman's

Another good idea is to makeover your menu. Keep the traditional favourites, but offer alternatives for vegans like Moving Mountains plant-based sausages and fishless fillets or fingers, and use a plant-based palm-oil free butter creamy mashed potatoes and making pastries and pie crusts. Take a look at your menu and see if there are ways to make it more unique and local. If it doesn’t sell that much, why not swap the less popular items for some unique dishes closer to home, using your county’s seasonal fruits and veggies. Be inspired by these vegan pubs and learn how to serve a vegan Ploughman’s!

become a local hub for the community

One good idea to help indie pubs thrive, is to become a hub for the community. Not just for drinking beer, but you could offer your outdoor car park for early morning farmers’ markets (before people arrive at your pub at 11am), or hold acoustic concerts or screenings of indie films, if you have a license. One good idea to to become a drop-off point for parcels if people are out. Then people can come by after work to collect them, and enjoy a drink and a sandwich at the same time. Chain store pubs can’t do that, but you can! Also make your pubs (unlike Wetherspoons) dog-friendy if possible, always having a bowl of fresh water on hand, perhaps an outdoor exercise area if you have space, and maybe a local baker to produce some organic dog biscuits for four-legged visitors!

Another good idea is to make it clear that people can use your toilets, to become part of the Great British Toilet Map. Many people don’t go out these days (especially older people with medical conditions) in case they can’t find a local loo. So by giving your public bathrooms a spruce up and making them accessible to all, you’ll soon become the hub of the community. People may then not be frightened to have a drink or two at your pub!

Save an adored pub that’s about to close with help from Plunkett Foundation. This wonderful organisation helps communities buy and save community shops and pubs, and has oodles of free help and advice, plus discounts on things like insurance. Read stories of pubs that have been saved by their local community, and are now thriving. People power!

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