Pubpaper 725 – Good Pub Guide = The Yellow Pages

Posted: 6th September 2013 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

I’ve left the topic of the Good Pub Guide 2014 until this week so I could present a view which is slightly more informative than 700 words of starred out expletives. For those who don’t know each year this guide is published by Ebury Press, however unlike The Good Beer Guide from CAMRA they charge for inclusion, from £99 for a basic listing up to £199 for an enhanced entry. I have nothing fundamentally against charging for entry in a guide to cover research costs, but the fact they don’t disclose this up front and only mention it when asked meaning that they give people the impression it is a totally impartial guidebook, rather than an upmarket Yellow Pages.

This year however they have been spectacularly effective at bringing the book to the attention of the mainstream and specialist media when they stated that “As many as 4,000 British pubs will deservedly go out of business over the next year because they are “stuck in the 1980s” and complacently offering “indifferent” food, drink and service”. When you consider there are an estimated 50,000 pubs in the UK, a drop of nearly 10% is a serious loss of this country’s public house stock.

CAMRA estimates that over the next 12 months twenty six pubs will close down every week, totalling 1300 over the next year. This is a third of the Good Pub Guides estimate. The guides publishers say that closures will escalate due to sales by and debt problems of the large pub companies. They are firm believers of Charles Darwins Theory of Evolution where the strongest examples of the species survive. They say that “Pubs closing keeps the trade healthy and robust”. You can imagine the editor Fiona Stapley as a lion chasing the pack of buffalo picking off the old, weak and lame animals.

Except this is totally incorrect, some these pubs will be saddled with above market beer costs, high rents and lack of investment from the owners of the building, otherwise known as operating a pub on behalf of a pub company. If you are a “local” or village pub then the remoteness and the need to drive to the venue restricts the income streams due to the limits of alcohol that can be consumed. This lack of profit or owners support may well limit how much you can spend on modernising the building, instead any money going into general maintenance to keep the building sound. An overloaded or underfed buffalo is not the hardest target in the world for a well fed lion.

They do admit they expect 1000 premises to reopen under a new guise or under new owners, but if this is as part of a pub company chain then the drinker will be the one who loses out with yet another pub that has no emotional link to the area which sells derivative beer and ping n pop food.  The spokesman from CAMRA got this spot on when he quoted “These pubs “at the bottom of the pecking order” may suit the needs of their regulars and be the focus and hub of their communities and should not be left to the vagaries of the market.”

The pubs that these new businesses replace would have not earned the manager untold wealth, but some support from the owners of the business would have helped to have boosted trade so they could make a reasonable living. Of course I don’t deny there are some bad managers out there, but they don’t run 10% of the UK’s pubs.  What makes the PubCo or new owner think that just because the pub is now a Brewers Fayre or Table Table branded pub it will earn enough to pay back the investment put in to convert the place after the initial interest has died down.

I’m not intended to line the publishers pockets to find out this by buying the book, instead making a far better investment in the Good Beer Guide 2014 from CAMRA which comes out in September.  But I wonder how many of those who paid Ebury Press belong to a pub company and again how many who paid the enhanced £199 listing fee were from the same stock.  Are they trying to keep favour with their major bankrollers?  The Good Beer Guide from CAMRA include pubs on merit and lines the pockets of our major campaigning group (despite their faults), support those who support the trade, not those who run the extortion racket like the Good Pub Guide.