Does a village need a local pub? I use the term village deliberately as as town will generally have other pubs to take up the slack if a premise closes.  Most villages outside of tourist destinations will have at tops a couple of pubs, and most small villages will only have one.  When I moved to the current village I live in, Bank Top, it used to have two pubs, with the neighbouring Southowram having three.  We have been down to one pub between the two villages at times.  The current situation is that we have now have two thriving businesses, The Cock and Bottle in Bank Top and Shoulder of Mutton, Southowram, along with the Packhorse (Southowram) which never really settles with a landlord for any period of time.

We had a period of about 18 months without a pub in Bank Top until the Cock and Bottle opened again in late 2011, and you do notice that you lose day to day contact with some people within the village, to the point there are some people you hadn’t seen or spoken to between the pub closing and it re-opening a year and half later.  Others migrated to the same places that I did and you kept in touch, but the migration spread people in all directions.  However the re-establishment of the local pub in Bank Top brought everyone back within weeks, and old familiar faces soon re-appeared.  The fact that you can go to the pub and not worry about getting a taxi or only having two pints, in a place which is friendly and pleasant to be in, is a big draw for people.

The pub declined and closed in a period where we also lost our local post office (now a house), and also the long standing owner of the local store sold up after over 20 years of ownership.  It was a combination of the loss of these “local hubs” which added to the spreading out of the community.   Bank Top could not support 2 pubs, as was attested to by the usually empty Manor House (now a housing development) which closed in the early 2000’s.  The premises were too big for level of business, with 5 rooms to fill, often having an average of 1 person per room on quiet days.  The Cock and Bottle thrived until about 2005, due to being about a quarter of the size and having to attract a lot less people to fill the place.

Has the last 5 months of having a village pub changed things?  I would say yes, as there does seem to be a greater sense of communication within the community, as the establishment of a village hub again has given a “focus” to the area.  The fact that it is being run and owned by a local family as a freehold re-enforces this point as you know there is a local interest in the business and its not just there to line the pockets of the owners, although there is no doubt it is doing very good trade, with the peak weekend times filling the pubs’ two rooms on a regular basis.

You would have thought that people generally would be glad when a local pub re-opens, but not one resident of a village in Kent who complained to the landlord and the council that the pubs’ new name “The Black Pig” was racist.  The name was changed due to the old name having a negative reputation from a previous guise.  The name has been used on several pubs in the south of England, and was also the name of Captain Pugwashs’ Ship.  Both the pub and the council has rejected the complaint thankfully, and somebody needs to get a political correctness bypass in the village.

Something that should concern us more than a pub name is the chance of beer going up over 20p in the period of 3 months.  After the VAT rise (7p per pint), increase in duty of inflation + 2% coming up next month (10-12p per pint) and for those who drink at Enterprise Inn pubs, the price increase imposed on tenants (7p per pint), you could be looking at your £2.40 pint suddenly costing £2.66.   That’s a big price increase, luckily my local still does a very good ale at £2.30, however I expect that to hit close to £2.40 come April.  We pay a price to be ale drinkers, a price which seems destined to increase.