A Quick Pint by Chris Williamson
Pubs are not just places to buy a beer, but are the lifeline of the community for many. It’s not totally healthy to drink a pint of beer a day, but for some people (especially lonely and old people), a daily pint at the local, makes life worth living. But alas these days, the good old traditional pub is fast disappearing. The low murmur of voices and enjoying a pint near a pub fire, has been replaced by what writer Paul Kingsnorth calls ‘vertical drinking’ in his book Real England. This is when the seats are taken away, so that people drink faster (more profits) and the murmur is often replaced by loud music. Also read on how to become a zero-waste and vegan-friendly pub.
Just like supporting local shops, visit them! If you don’t use them, you lose them. If you don’t drink alcohol, you can still go for a soft drink. If you are a regular pub goer, CAMRA has a guide to help. You can join as a member and get a discount in local pubs, this is a no-brainer as the membership pays for itself in a short while.
Use your pub for other uses. Pub is the Hub has lots of ideas on how to turn your pub into a hub for the local community, rather than just a place to ‘serve beer’. It can be used for:
- Farmers’ markets
- Local indie cinemas (often has license)
- Drop-off point for post office parcels
- A lending library
- A pop-up village shop
- A hub for your local credit union
- Tourist info office with maps
- Community cafe for charities
- Internet cafe
- Click and collect for shops
- Suma food group collection point (where lots of people buy organic food in bulk, then it’s delivered to one large outlet, and paid for separately).
Buy Your Own Pub!
If your pub is in real danger (or you would like to buy the local pub to get owned by the community), find help at Plunkett Foundation. Also experts at starting and saving community shops, they can give you all their help and expertise, and signing up gives discounts on items like insurance. There are now over 150 community-owned pubs, which are run by local people, who often volunteer a few hours each month each. The average cost is around £300K (and another £150K in set-up costs). But if 1000 local people invest, that’s only £300 each to save the hub of your community, provide a few jobs and stop the big chains moving in. Over half the money for most of their pubs comes from community shares. And to date – not one has folded!
Obviously, many struggled during lockdown. Abingdon Arms (Oxfordshire) simply transformed their community pub into a shop and takeaway (and sold beers-to-go). Most community pubs are in the south, although a few are starting up in the north. Tyneside’s Ye Olde Cross was saved by 300 local investors, and runs street food pop-ups, weekly quizzes, pop-up mic nights, a weekly vegan food market, a book club and dominoes!
The Beer Tax Issue
Lucky Saint (vegan draught alcohol-free beer)
One problem is that UK beer tax is way higher than elsewhere in Europe. This is believed to be due to discouraging alcohol, but the maths does not add up. We have a much higher incidence of drinking problems than in countries that have lower beer tax.
Many pubs suffer due to the ‘triple tax whammy’ of VAT, business rates and high beer duty. CAMRA want the law changed to encourage smaller pubs and indie breweries to not be clobbered with the high taxes. Tax at present makes up a whopping third of the total cost of a pint. Then if you add on the landlord’s costs and staff and other taxes, it’s difficult to stay afloat. The other issue is that the tax is proportionally more in the north, because the tax is the same, even though the cost of a pint in London can be up to 60% more. So much for ‘levelling up’.