Tuesday 12 August 2014

CAMRA: Still ignoring the elephant in the pub

With the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) calling for more government intervention to save the British pub, let's remember what they said on the eve of the smoking ban in 2007.

You'd think that the influx of "840,000 people who never go to pubs", combined with six million pubgoers going more often, would have been a real shot in the arm for the pub industry, wouldn't you? Alas, these people didn't exist (it's that old stated preferences versus revealed preferences thing) and 2007 saw the start of the biggest decline in pub numbers in living memory, possibly ever.

CAMRA's new plan is to make it more difficult to turn a pub into a house or a shop. This won't stop pubs closing—it fails to deal with the underlying lack of demand for smokefree boozers—but it will mean that we can look at pubs in a derelict state for a bit longer while Tesco gets planning permission. So that'll be nice.

After supporting the smoking ban, and having said barely a peep about it since, CAMRA's campaign to save the British pub with more state regulation looks like being about as successful as its campaign to rid the country of lager and metal kegs.


Fredrik Eich said...

Camra also promised 7,000,000 new customers because of the smoking ban.

here http://tinyurl.com/75tbt6t

A fact that I still can't help my self from commenting on , on th MA , when ever Camra talk about pub closures


One day I will get bored of pointing it out. - but not for a good few decades yet.

Curmudgeon said...

"There's a saying that, given time, all organisations end up as if they were run by a conspiracy of their foes."

westcoast2 said...

2007 - '...a smoke ban has been good for business as Hook Norton pub the Marston in...'

2009 - Was this the same pub Camra discussed:
'They introduced the smoking ban early, but like many did, not like a pub full of smoke, health wise.
At the moment they are considering moving out, but have decided to stay on an manage the pub, until someone decides to take it on.'

2012 - For Sale.

2014 - According to 'Beer in the evening' it is closed. It is listed on 'The Good Pub Guide' web pages with only address details.

What has happened to this pub?
Was the smoking ban good for buisiness?

proglodyte said...

Beat me to it West.


Tragic farce...

proglodyte said...

...or should that be 'poetic justice'?

The Beer Wrangler said...

Smoke free pubs was never about pubs per se, but workers rights to work in a smoke free environment night after night. Some pubs undoubtedly suffered and some ( often more food focused venues) benefited. The reality is that if pubs aren't attracting enough punters, like any business, they will fold. There is no inalienable right for pubs to exist. Drinking at home has had the biggest effect on pubs as people don't want to spend the premium of pub beer as often.
The other issues are the rise of tied houses to pub companies that charge enormous prices for beer and make it hard for publicans to make a living.

Curmudgeon said...

"Smoke free pubs was never about pubs per se, but workers rights to work in a smoke free environment night after night."

This is a canard often put about by ban supporters, but in fact (even assuming the science behind it stands up) that objective could have been achieved by restricting smoking to separate rooms without a bar counter or table service. After all, smoking is still legal in hotel rooms, albeit now usually prohibited by company policy.

No, the core motivation behind the ban was the denormalisation of smoking.

Jonathan Bagley said...

In the North of England, at least, pub beer is no more expensive than in 1976, when a pint of bitter was around 18 to 20p. It's still possible to get a pint for under £2 and average wages have gone up by around the same amount.

westcoast2 said...

some ( often more food focused venues) benefited

The Marsten Inn
2007 - Smoking ban 'Good for business' - CAMRA opening times.
2008 - 'Good food is always the order of the day at the Marston Inn. Quality and value are top of the list which keeps customers coming back for more. ' (Pub site, wayback machine)
2010 - Pub web site domain for sale
2010-2014 The pub was put up for sale and apparently closed.

Good business, seems to have been the same landlord in 2010, as quoted by CAMRA in 2007, good food, customers coming back for more, what changed?

SadButMadLad said...

Used to be that barns were the in property development to carry out. Now its pubs. Large buildings, usually lots of land from the car park - ideal for flats or large houses.

Curmudgeon said...

Camra is trying hard to make sure no new pubs ever get opened again

nisakiman said...

@ Curmudgeon

The author of the blog, Martyn Cornell seems to be in denial about the elephant in the room, even though I pointed it out to him in the comments. He's of the opinion that improving the standard of cask beers is all it will take to turn the pub industry around.

Martyn Cornell said...

It's not me in denial, it's all you fantasists who continue to insist, despite the evidence against you, that pub closures would cease if only people were allowed to smoke in them again. Take a look at the graph on this very page – what was causing the decline in pub numbers before 1990 – a decline that had been happening for 100 years? It wasn't the smoking ban. The closures ceased after 1990 when the pubcos took off, but began again once the pubco shake-out started, at just the rate they had been happening before - and still no smoking ban. Closures do seem to increase in rate after the ban comes in - but if so, is that solely the ban, or the start of the recession, plus the increased pressure on the pubcos? And why, SEVEN YEARS after the

Martyn Cornell said...

smoking ban came in, are pubs still closing at just the same rate as they were back before the 1990s, when there was no ban?

Curmudgeon said...

Nobody is claiming that the smoking ban has been the sole cause of recent pub closures, but to suggest in the face of all the evidence that it hasn't been a significant factor over the past seven years is absurd denialism.

And, whatever the effect, it is a morally abhorrent policy.

Martyn Cornell said...

"to suggest in the face of all the evidence that it hasn't been a significant factor over the past seven years is absurd denialism."

Figures please

"And, whatever the effect, it is a morally abhorrent policy. "

Banning people from pubs because of their race, sex, sexuality, beliefs, physical appearance and so on is morally abhorrent. Banning peopele because they want to stink the place up with potentially health-harming chemicals - not so much. Please - smoking is NOT a human rights issue, and to claim it is belittles genuine human rights campaigns.

Fredrik Eich said...

"they want to stink the place up with potentially health-harming chemicals "
What like beer you mean.


Alcoholic beverages are a group 1 carcinogen. And passive drinking has not yet been shown to be harmless to teetotallers in pubs.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't it around the year 2000 that the house price boom got underway? I think I read a piece at Mark Wadsworth's place examinining how hoise prices as a percentage of wages started to shoot up from their traditional levels at that time.

That would be a double whammy for pubs. First, the same conditions will have increased the price of licensed premises. Second, and possibly more importantly, the increased share of income going to housing means a reduced share available for going to the pub.

The earlier decline is before my pubbing days, but I would ask those who were there whether much was due to a consolidation of venues as more modern business ideas took hold. It would be interesting to see if consumption in pubs fell as well as number of pubs.

Anonymous said...

But, in response to Martyn, I would say this.. my friends and I are, for the purposes of finding answers, a mere anecdote.. but the smoking ban coincided with a significant reduction in time spent in the pub. We started gathering at home, and once people get a taste for that it's hard to go back.

So, in our case, the ban was a trigger that had us looking for other options that had never been necessary. You say that people buy supermarket booze and drink at home... well yes, and the smoking ban makes that a more appealing option than it used to be.

Now pubs are banning Vapers too. Which (and I know this) includes people who are maybe keen to go back to something like it used to be. The stupid is strong with them.

Curmudgeon said...

"It would be interesting to see if consumption in pubs fell as well as number of pubs."

If you look at the BBPA beer consumption stats, there was a steady decline in the on-trade throughout the Noughties, even during the so-called economic boom, but it intensified between 2007 and 2008, which was before the recession kicked in.

Curmudgeon said...

It's a bit rich, Martyn, to close down debate on the smoking issue on your own blog and then seek to prolong it here.

And, for what it's worth, what I choose to eat, drink and smoke IS a key human rights issue. The degree to which it impinges on others is also a human rights issue but, even assuming all the claims about the effects of second-hand smoke, why can't smokers have their own clubs where they (with their tolerant non-smoking friends) can puff away to their hearts' content, and where people who don't like tobacco smoke will never need to enter?

Perry de Havilland said...

"Banning people from pubs because of their race, sex, sexuality, beliefs, physical appearance and so on is morally abhorrent"

So not a great believer in free association eh?