Simon English: Marston's is showing the traditional pub's not dead
Thursday 04 October 2012
Outlook A certain despairing voice has been howling from the saloon bar of the Dog and Duck for at least the past four years.
Traditional boozers have had it. Regulation and taxes and fancy new wine bars are killing us, went the wail. It's not possible to make money from the god's work that is selling decent beer. The world as we know it has pretty much ended.
It's certainly true that the pressures on the pub trade have been intense. The government, as one of the industry's leading lights likes to say, sees pubs as nothing more than a social problem on one hand and a source of tax revenue on the other.
Supermarkets sell booze as a loss maker to persuade people to stay at home rather than be social. And since Messrs Cameron and Osborne are plainly the types that prefer "dinner parties" to a night down the local, they couldn't care less about the Dog's inevitable demise.
The lads at Camra were getting frothier than one of their beloved pints of badger-flavoured beer. All these folk have a good point; the disappearance of "wet-led" – that means drink-only – community pubs is a genuine shame. It is more than a consumer choice; it's a function of policy as much as economic pressures.
So it is good to be able to report this figure from Marston's yesterday: wet sales up 2.1 per cent over the past 12 months. Beer purists (do feel free to write in, the more abusively the better) will say Marston's isn't a "proper" pub and beer company, having a clearly dangerous policy of trying to provide places friendly to females and families and serve food beyond three-week-old sausage rolls.
But its beer is the real thing, mostly, and if it is selling more of it in the face of a recession, maybe there's life in the pub trade after all.
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