Sunday, 16 May 2010

There's None So Blind As A Scottish Publican

Sure. A decent education has never been a pre-requisite for running a pub, but one would have thought that, when their business is threatened, an ability to at least attack the correct target would come in handy.

MANY struggling pubs across Scotland can now only afford to open at weekends as drinkers turn to cheap supermarket booze, beleaguered landlords have warned. Scores of bars have been forced to close during the week due to a devastating dip in trade.

Some pubs in Glasgow are only open for EIGHT HOURS a FORTNIGHT - relying on punters watching big football matches to survive.
Yep. It's a dire state of affairs, so it is. Time to fight back.

Jim McClelland, 57, has owned the Thistle Inn, in Crossmichael, Kirkcudbrightshire, for 35 years.

But for the last six months he's been forced to shut up shop on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Jim groaned: "It just doesn't make any sense to pay staff when there are no customers.

"I've been running my bar for 35 years and this is the first time I've had to shut during the week. It's heart-breaking."

Jim reckons supermarkets and the smoking ban is killing the industry.
So what's your plan, Jim?

He said: "These supermarket giants are being allowed to crush our small businesses. They have so much power and the politicians seem scared to act."

Err, Jim, how have they changed their business plan in the past ... ooh, I dunno ... 35 years? They have always sold beer cheaper than you. Considerably so, in fact.

So much power and politicians scared to act? There is certainly an industry to which that could apply, but it ain't the supermarkets. Try again.

Publican Tommy Muir has run the Fiveways Inn at Bridgeton Cross for 16 years.
Since 1994, eh? Who do you blame, Tommy?

Tommy blames politicians for failing to protect the pub trade.
By jove, I think he's got it!

He said: "We employ tens of thousands of people in this country but we're not being given a level playing field.

"I'm not holding out too much hope in the SNP forcing through its minimum pricing on supermarket booze."
Err, no actually. He hasn't.

Listen Tommy. This is how it works, OK? The SNP are advocating a 40p minimum price per unit selling price. This would make a 24 pack of 440ml (Mmmmm) Carlsberg cans cost about £16. Even if the saggy-arsed one's recommendation of 50p per unit was implemented, it would still only result in the same pack being sold for £20.

The equivalent price in your pub (at a notional average of £2.50 per pint) would be over £45.

A considerable saving then, even with minimum pricing. Enough, in fact, for a slap up takeaway into the bargain.

And for the meal accompaniment, a glass of Jockland bottom drawer pub wine is probably over £3 while, even with a 50p minimum unit price, you can still get a whole bottle for £4.50 in Morrisons; and you can choose your favourite bottle; and you can finish off with a nice cigar should you so choose. Inside.

So how is this perceived panacea of the minimum unit price going to help you ... exactly?

Actually, perhaps I'm being a bit harsh on the publicans. For it would seem that some kind of myopic mass hysteria is at play here.

Scottish Licensed Trade Association chief Paul Waterson said: "The Government is allowing supermarkets to give alcohol away and ignoring the fact it's killing pubs."
Nothing else to blame, Paul? Nothing at all? Really?

Colin Borland, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "This is a very difficult period for the small independent pub as they are up against supermarkets' very aggressive and predatory prices."
Aggressive and predatory? Give me strength guys. There is a huge fucking elephant running amok and you're talking about applying a pretty kids' plaster to a deep, gaping gash which is spurting gallons of publican blood all over the industry.

There is, thankfully, one who is thinking on the right lines ... though still, like his customers who are in mid-conversation when their gaze, and attention, is drawn to the silent scrolling Sky Sports News ticker, he also loses his train of thought and partially falls for the big-bad-wolf-supermarket red herring.

Landlord Sean Kennedy has owned the National Hotel, in Dingwall, Easter Ross, for 10 years and is facing the same problems.

"A lot of people have decided 'Why should I go to the pub when I can drink cheap supermarket booze and smoke at home?'"

Listen guys. The minimum alcohol pricing is, firstly, illegal under EU law. Secondly, it's not going to exert any influence on the prosperity of your business unless implemented in tandem with a relaxing of the far more damaging problem of the smoking ban.

It really is that simple.

Funnily enough, that's exactly the approach suggested by trade newspaper, The Publican - it may even be sold north of the border - in its pre-election 'manifesto' for 'saving' the pub trade.

Until they start making as much noise about the real source of their woes, instead of a quite inconsequential sideshow, these scottish publicans really don't deserve saving.


Anonymous said...

My one and only local has recently put the price of a pint of Guinness to £3.60p.
After I had picked myself up the barman said, "Well at least I'll have a quiet Friday night as no fecker will be coming in".
This is so typical of what's going on. Most pubs have made no effort whatsoever to provide cover for smokers and then price themselves out. Twats.

Jeff Wood said...

Quite so, Dick.

My lady owns a bar. The smoking ban in Scotland did not affect Scottish pubs as quickly as the later ban in England; but combined with the recession the effects of the ban have now become embedded.

Last winter didn't help - who fancied standing outside for a smoke in those temperatures? Rainy times have the same effect, and our bar cannot put up cover for smokers.

So there is still trade at weekends, when there is music. Weekday customers may have a swift half on the way home, but there they settle down with supermarket drink, and smoke all they wish.

According to the latest propaganda, they are giving their children cancer, but that will just give the Righteous grounds to agitate for a ban on smoking in the home.

That could not be enforced, but the threat of licence removal means that publicans have no choice but to enforce the law.

Of course the non-smokers who supported the ban have not replaced the lost customers - perish the thought.

Which reminds me: a few months ago I was in Calabria. There was a cafe bar in the town where the ashtrays were openly on the tables, and used, in defiance of Itlay's ban. The local Mafia Capo, who owned the place, took his turn serving while his barman slipped out for a haircut.

An agreeable fellow, the Capo, but then we weren't there to make difficulties for either him or the heavies who guarded the bar. In fact, given his views on the ban, we were careful not to see some of the goods being shipped in and out during our visits.

westcoast2 said...

Just wondering and following on from Jeff Wood, does supermarket pricing only affect trade when the sun isn't shining?

Dick Puddlecote said...

That's a very good question, westcoast.

Jeff Wood said...

Westcoast, a bar up the road from us has an outside seating area, and some cover.

I gather they do a little better in warm weather. However, they have changed hands twice in three years, so the basic economics don't seem sound.

So many other variables, like rent. However, we would profit from a beer garden - and decent weather - cos everyone, including the staff, likes a fag and a good gossip with it.

Stuff the Trade Organisations said...

It was part of the Global Tobacco Control Strategy to get the Licensed Trade to sit round the table with Government and draw up rules on the policing of the Smoking Ban. Like fools they agreed and are now facing the costs. If the landlords only had to tell customers that it was against the law to smoke, end of story, then the arse would have fallen out of the smoking ban in weeks.

J Bonington Jagworth said...

I'm not a publican, but I seem to recall that tied houses are given a very tough time by the pubco's, with both high rents and the obligation to buy beer at around £300 a barrel.

I agree about the smoking (I even enjoy a bit of the passive stuff) but the industry is also to blame!

J. R. Tomlin said...

I hate to tell you guys, but there have been smoking bans in other countries including the US for quite some time.

They haven't killed of the "bars" (as we call them) or the restaurants. Maybe--just maybe--the publicans need to look at exactly why people really aren't showing up any more.