Pubpaper 814 – Losing Pubs and Beer Prices

Posted: 4th July 2015 by santobugtio in Writing

I mentioned a few months ago the story of the illegal demolition of the Carlton Tavern in London by its owners who wanted to build apartments on the site, but had been denied permission and knocked the building down the day before it was due to get its Asset of Community Value status ensuring its use could not changed without the local community having a chance to buy the building.   Westminster Council have subsequently ordered the owner of the property to rebuild the Carlton Tavern brick by brick to its original design.

Another case has come to light in St John’s Wood, again in London.  This time it was a pub of Victorian origin called the Alchemist (originally called the Fishmongers Arms) about a month ago.  The now former pub building is inside the areas conservation zone and is considered one of the landmark buildings in the area.   The pub falls under the jurisdiction of Wandsworth Council who are soon to give 121 pubs in their area of control added protection, which means demolition or change of use to retail (currently not needing planning permission) would now need council permission.  I don’t usually give local authorities praise, but hats off to this decision.

This may have hastened the owners “need” to remove the building from the land he owns before protection kicks in, very much like the Carlton Tavern incident.  The pub was not currently trading, but if a landowner wants an empty building, he can easily make it not attractive for anyone to take on the site and to make the existing tenant leave by simply pricing the rent out of the market.  Wandsworth Council say they could order the pub to rebuild brick by brick in the original style, I hope they do, because otherwise we will get more pubs being knocked down without permission knowing the fine will be more than covered by the profits on the apartments or the sale of the land as a development site.

This happened in the past of course, but usually there was a “mysterious fire” which gutted the building and made it structurally unsafe, owners are just more brazen about it now.

Now onto beer prices, there is a worldwide survey each year on the average cost of a beer across 75 different cities, looking at Europe, Eastern Europe takes the top three cheapest slots with Krakow (Poland), Kiev (Ukraine) and Bratislava (Slovakia).  The Scandinavian and Swiss cities are the most expensive.  No real surprises there, both ends of the scale already have a reputation regarding their beer prices.  Considering the UK and Ireland, as you’d expect London and Dublin are fairly close to the expensive end of the scale.  The other UK cities listed (Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool) were all sitting in the cheaper half of the table, surrounded by other European capitals.

The survey only cover hotels in the these cities it should be noted.  So if we take the example of Leeds, they quote £2.99 per 330ml or £5 per pint.  In reality I’d put Leeds about £3.50 to £3.80 per pint on average across normal pubs both real ale and craft.  Oslo works out at £8 per pint, and Helsinki at £9 per pint and from people I know who have stayed in hotels over there that’s about right, with bars charging at least £6 per pint (similar for Iceland, which isn’t on list) which about the same percentage difference as Leeds between hotels and bars.

Take Slovakia and Poland, who’s hotels charge £2.50 and £3 per pint, the beer is known to be cheap over there, assuming the same difference as Leeds it would be about £1.80 and £2 respectively in bars, a price you’d not be surprised to be paying judging from people who have been over there.  In all these places of course you can find cheaper places to drink.  But it shows we can moan about beer prices, and they are high compared to a lot of places in Europe that we typically visit on holiday or business.  But compared to other continents and certain European countries in this survey, we get a veritable bargain.

Remember when we used to consider paying £3 per pint something we’d never do, we’ll most of us do now, and probably nearer to £4 if you drink premium lager.  Our psychological barriers for what we’ll pay will continue to increase, we are not going to give up the pub or beer, it is too ingrained in us.