When I hear a developer or Pubco company saying that a pub is unviable all I can think of is ‘what if this was a football club.’
Your team are rubbish, they are losing every week and are bottom of the league. Worse they are thousands in debt. Close them down I hear you sing, they’ve become unviable. Or how about this: change the management, players and run it a bit better. They start winning games, more people come and watch them and hey presto, look they are viable again.
I’m not arguing that pubs don’t need to change; pub hospitality needs a massive kick up the backside to be a bit more you know hospitable. Eating a Thai meal in one Slough pub a few years back, as the staff blasted out heavy metal music so loud we couldn’t hear each other talk, one of our mates said the owners had tried everything to get people through the doors. Apparently cleaning the place and making the toilets not smell like a sewage farm wasn’t one of them.
I’m pretty sure in its last incarnations the Bevy was an unviable pub, strangled by the tripple whammy of a pub tie that meant buying beer cost twice the normal price, an uncaring Pubco and poor management. What was once a thriving community pub had not changed with the times. Hell, it’s not the most viable pub now but we work bloody hard to try and make it one.
So what about measuring a pubs social impact? Once a pub has gone its gone. With a loneliness epidemic we need more places for people to meet not less.
So how about running a lunch club for older people, offering them lifts if you can. People with learning disabilities are desperate to work but never given a chance, so why not team up with their local colleges and see if they can gain valuable work experience in your kitchen or behind the bar. Look at the quiet times and see how you can fill them by holding community events and offering rooms for people to meet for free. Anything is possible from garden competitions, art and knitting groups to making your own shampoo out of beer! Display the local schools artwork and run cooking lessons when your kitchen is closed. The more diverse the events, the more diverse the people coming through the doors. There’s plenty of community pubs to go and have a look at and nick their best ideas – and drag those council officers and councillors with you.
Ask people what they want – novel eh! Oh and clean those bloody bogs.
Yes we need houses but not at the expense of places where people can meet. Change the bloody record and change the model if its not working, not go for the close-it-down nuclear option.
The Bevy hasn’t got all the answers but we reckon we have a blueprint of how pubs can change and survive into the future, because you know what, they are needed more than ever.