News reached me this week that the small village pub which my friends and I have frequented on a regular basis for many years has called time for the last time. This will be a huge blow for the local community as well as lovers of the fortnightly pub quiz.
Thirteen rural pubs are shutting down in Britain each week, a rate 20 times higher than three years ago, and beer sales are lower than at any point since the Depression of the 1930s. Experts say that while national bar chains such as Wetherspoons are thriving, community and village pubs are being forced into administration and “popping down to the local” could become a thing of the past.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) estimates that around 4,000 village pubs have disappeared since 1980 – the result of increasingly tough drink-driving laws, cheap supermarket beer, rising costs and alcohol duty, and the smoking ban.
But Harrogate bar owner Jay Smith has decided that enough is enough. He says that it is the small village pubs which are closing at an alarming rate rather than the town bars.
Jay struck on the idea that if communities took the pub on themselves and ran it on a voluntary basis, it could ensure the future of the village local. He thought it would also be a very good way of getting communities back into the pub. They would only have the pressure of paying the mortgage or rent as everything else would be provided by the community; any profits would go back into the pub or the local community.
He decided to take his idea to a television production team, and thought no more about it until they contacted him and asked if he wanted to be involved in putting a programme together, and he agreed to present it.
Jay has spent the last year filming Save Our Boozer, to be screened on the TV channel Blighty over four consecutive nights from tonight, Tuesday 8th December. In the series, he visits five closed or failing pubs and enlists local residents to run them.
Jay leads each community through an intense six weeks of training and hard work to revamp their pub – and decide whether they are ready to take it over for good.
Jay has experienced the highs and lows of the industry at first hand. Ten years ago he lost his house, his car and very nearly his business when his first bar failed to break even. But he turned things around. Now, he wants to do the same for the British boozer, one small pub at a time.
Local pubs are the backbone of British society, particularly in rural communities. Once they close it is very unlikely that they will ever re-open because people move on, find new venues and learn to live without their local. Save Our Boozer is hoping to inspire people to support their local boozer and save the species from extinction.
Save our Boozer is on Blighty from Tuesday, December 8 at 8pm.
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