Thousands of Britain's traditional pubs will resort to desperate measures to try to revive their flagging fortunes. More than 5,500 hostelries are taking part in the first ever Community Pubs Month campaign, offering medieval banquets, bingo nights, film screenings and even Morris dancing from tomorrow. Devised by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), it is an attempt to stave off the rash of closures that has seen some 4,500 disappearing in the past four years. The move comes as 16 pubs a week are currently closing their doors, a rate that could see 40,000 local pubs vanish by 2060.
Campaigners hope that by promoting pubs as unofficial community centres, they can fight a rearguard action against shifting patterns of drinking that have seen millions become stay-at-home drinkers. Many pubs are suffering "chronic underinvestment, rising operating costs, discount booze deals by supermarkets, and punitive beer tax increases", said Mike Benner, Camra's chief executive.
The pub remains a core part of British identity for more than three-quarters of Britons, according to new research being released by Camra tomorrow. But reflecting the dire state of the industry, 35 per cent say a pub has closed in their local area over the past 12 months, according to a poll of more than 1,000 people by researchers TNS. Calling for support, Mr Benner said: "Many pubs remain essential meeting places for local people."
The campaign comes just months after a report by the IPPR think tank called for business rate relief for pubs acting as "centres of a community".
The Welcome Inn in Moston, near Oldham, is one that's bucking the trend. Back in business after being closed for three years, it is owned by Amber Taverns, a firm with 74 pubs in the North. The secret is keeping it simple, said Amber's director, 75-year-old Clive Preston. "You need to buy the right pub... we look for community pubs on the outskirts of towns and in cities."
Its business model is based on cheap beer and an "operator agreement" where the landlord gets a percentage of drink sales and Amber is responsible for operating costs and the beer. The Welcome Inn made a £117,000 profit last year. "The great thing about a community pub is that people do things for each other," says David Edgar, at the bar.
Cunning ways to tempt you in: Morris dancing, anyone?
The Leopard, Burton-on-Trent
Ann Summers Party on 28 April: "A chance to see (and try on) the latest range of Ann Summers lovely lingerie and outfits".
The Nelson Inn, Ludlow
"Enter the Dragon" evening on 21 April: "Bring your mother-in-law and claim a free drink".
The Pointer Inn, Alresford
Pig racing, barbecue & music on 21 April.
The Brunswick Arms, Worcester
A full medieval banquet on 15 April: "Full costume banquet to include real ale, wine and a meat feast".
The George, Berkhamsted
Wii Competition Night, which is billed as an "electronic exercise", on 10 April.
The Ladywell Tavern, Lewisham
Scream queen Adrienne King: "Star of the original Friday the 13th will be dancing for the first time with The Blackheath Morris Men" on 19 April.
- More about:
- Bars And Pubs