As part of my "job" as local CAMRA Chairman, I like to keep in touch with my local publicans. It makes us relevant and talking their language, listening and seeking their views is never a bad thing. So when I deliver our local CAMRA magazine it gives me the opportunity to have a chat to licensees. Most are keen to bend my ear about the shortcomings of their pub companies or breweries, or to impart gossip and sometimes, good news. I've spoken to five in the last few days and you know what? All of them, in brewery tied houses, are feeling very upbeat indeed and the pubs are trading well. One recurring theme though is the issue of business rates. This was forcibly and plainly stated by one landlord, whose business rates cost him more than his rent. He was also at pains to point out "And I get fuck all for it", complaining that he has still has to pay a private company to get his bins emptied.
I looked this up and indeed this is true, as indicated by this rathern unconvincing explanation from HMG; "Your rates are not a payment for specific services but are a contribution from businesses towards all of the services provided by the Council for the community, such as local transport, education and housing, all of which indirectly benefit businesses in the area." I'm not sure businesses would take that view. It does seem a tad unfair that a local tax provides no direct benefit to those on whom it is imposed and small wonder it is a source of indignation to say the least. Nor that businesses are campaigning to have the system reformed. So much is talked about pub rents, but in these cases at least, the local council are seen to be putting the knife in.
Putting that aside though, it was pleasing indeed that these publicans were optimistic and upbeat and while this area has had a major shake out of pubs in recent years, maybe those good enough to survive are doing better than I had previously thought. It was also pleasing to observe for myself, that in the pubs I visited, three were going like a fair and two, despite it being quiet times had a pleasant sprinklng of customers. In all cases the beer was good too.
Could it be that as things stabilise in some well run pub companies and breweries, that the focus shifts to unfair local taxes?
I was also pleased to find warm feelings towards CAMRA too. Maybe not typical everywhere, but if you put the work in, it gets rewards.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer author, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
This blog mentions specifics; pubs and beer, good and bad. The opinions will be forthright, but you can always disagree, just don't be offended. Comments from those mentioned are particularly welcome and a right of reply is hereby offered.
Read my information and links and then decide for yourself. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes.
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