Telegraph Voices: Are we doing enough to support the pub trade in Sheffield?
In our latest edition of Telegraph Voices, we ask a panel of experts '˜are we doing enough to support the pub trade in Sheffield?'Â
Mark Powell, The Gardeners Rest
It's a question of taste! If you like a local pub because it is locally owned, offers good customer service, serves a wide range of well-kept beers and snacks at a reasonable price in a relaxing environment, then I don't expect you will be thinking about supporting it '“ you'll keep turning up, and it will support you! There are plenty such pubs in Sheffield.
If you prefer a pubco pub serving beers from a narrow, prescribed list, tenanted and staffed by people who are forced to work very hard to make money for remote managers who couldn't find Sheffield without a satnav, then there are still some left for you to support.
The rest of them are closed with a sign outside offering you a fantastic business opportunity! Supporting your local is not meant to be an act of charity.
It can be a way of finding yourself, losing yourself, enjoying yourself and connecting with a place or a community, on your own or with friends. A good pub is a community resource, somewhere to go for something you want or need '“ not a social duty. How far should you go to support your local pub? Walk there if you can, but if your closest local makes your eyes water, then go further afield to a pub that treats you well. It's still a local.
It may be that you don't usually choose to go to any pubs at all. Perhaps you prefer drinking cheap rocket fuel at home, available from your local supermarket, or perhaps you don't like the company of people who have had one or ten too many.
Fair enough, don't change your habits just to support your local, but you might be missing something special.
You won't need a second mortgage to have a night out at a good, local pub and, strangely enough, the shout loud, drink lots and fall over brigade don't seem to fancy well run pubs. If you're not already a regular, why not give a local pub a try this Christmas? Even good pubs need your support.Â
Phil Ellett, Branch Secretary, Sheffield & District CAMRA.
The best way to support your local pub is to visit - the local can be '˜all things to all people' everything from a magical evening gig to a morning child and parents venue.
The Sheffield district has many such venues - to mention but two: The Anglers (Bamford) is an integral part of the village with both cafÃ© and Post Office while the White Lion (Heeley) caters for many and diverse groups. Long may, these, and the many similar community pubs, continue.
Locally, CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) holds meetings across the city, presents local pub awards, produces a monthly magazine and has recently published '˜Sheffield's Real Heritage Pubs,' a well-received book which covers the diverse heritage which our pubs represent. We are also lobbying, both locally and nationally, to support local pubs.
We welcome the new rates scheme, which gives businesses with a rateable value below Â£51k a third off. However, many local pubs will not qualify.
Also, this is only for two years and is essentially a short-term 'sticking plaster.' Pubs pay 2.8% of rates yet account for only 0.5% of total business turnover. Hence, we believe that a radical reform of business rates is required.
We also welcome the recent beer duty freeze. Again, this is only in place for a year. The UK pays a disproportionate rate of duty compared to other EU countries. We pay 40% of the duty paid in the EU but only drink 12% of the beer. Ideally, CAMRA would like the introduction of a preferentially lower rate for draught beer (as opposed to bottles and cans) which would give pubs a competitive edge over supermarkets, whilst encouraging responsible drinking in a safe managed environment.
An urgent review of The Pubs Code is also required as currently large pub companies are not following the spirit of the code. It allows tied tenants to apply for a MRO (Market Rent Option). This lets them pay the market rate for rent and purchase beer, and other products, from whoever they wish. Due to the actions of the owning companies, very few pubs have achieved MRO.
In addition to campaigning for a fair deal, the best way to support your local is to visit '“ remember, '˜a pub is not just for Christmas.'
James Marriott, Sheffield Hopcast
Society has changed and as part of that shift, pubs have suffered. Coffee shops charging a fiver for a hazelnut pumpkin something or other have taken pole position.
But pubs are so much more important for the community - not to say there aren't great coffee shops and cafes out there because there are - but pubs can bring together every generation in a way nowhere else can.
Having said that, there are successful pubs out there, and herein lies the key - pubs need to change, adapt and create more of their own identity.
Community driven pubs such as The Greystones and New Barrack Tavern continue to grow and develop.
We even have a community-owned pub in Kelham Island with The Gardeners Rest.
The rise of micro pubs has been interesting - they're small and so the connection between drinker and establishment is so much more pronounced. Walkley Beer Co is a great example of a micro pub truly at the heart of its community.
Ecclesall Ale Club recently held a charity night for its first birthday.
Soulless pubs with little in the way of personality or identity will struggle. A pub won't succeed JUST for being a pub anymore - the price of drinks will make sure of that.
Other pubs thrive on their reputation for great and unusual beer - Shakespeare's, Rutland Arms, Bar Stewards, Beer Engine for example - while others are well known for developing an amazing food menu, or even impressive live music liane-ups.
The rise in pubs selling drinks in different measures - one third or two thirds of a pint - along with more bottles and cans means there's a wider choice and more cost effective options.
So it can work - give people a reason to go to any given pub - and have a real chance of succeeding.
And to anyone who hasn't ventured out to one of their locals for a while'¦ maybe it has changed, and could be the heart of your community now. Switch the mocca chocca latte for a nice mocca chocca stout down the pub tomorrow - you might just find your new favourite place'¦ and they don't need to write your name on your glass to remember who you are.
Jamie Thompson, author of the upcoming book '˜Sup up we're going- a history of Sheffield pubs in the post- war era'
Pubs have always closed due to changes in population, fashion, redevelopment, demolition and of course- the classic lack of customers!
Whilst many traditional, long- standing boozers have been lost in the last ten years (with the Pub Co's being primarily to blame) and in part due to their limited selection of drinks, poor food options and a revolving door of what used to be called landlords but were in reality employees with very little security or thanks for their efforts.
In the last few years but a handful of innovative individuals, organisations and local breweries have bucked the overriding trend by negotiating terms away from the normal restrictive stranglehold Pub Cos have over their pubs.
They have shown that given the chance pubs that have been written off can thrive and become a success. There are numerous examples of when pubs provide a quality product they will attract customers old and new.
This has been assisted by the increase in quality locally produced drinks (primarily real ale but increasingly gins) that have led to Sheffield arguably becoming the cask ale capital of the UK.
There is further cause for optimism with the advent of many micro pubs opening in former vacant shop units at a time of the decline of the High Street. The local authority has helped by moving away from a traditional restrictive approach to licencing and has contributed to communities being able to enjoy the traditional pub experience in a new way.
I fear more pubs could go in the coming years but I am optimistic for the future. So next time you head out try somewhere new, try a craft ale, try a hand pulled locally produced real ale. The pub experience has changed in the last few years and trust me there is something out there for you, me and the varied communities of our city- Sheffield. The city for beer and home to some of the finest pubs in the county.
Trevor Wraith, former landlord of Kelham Island Tavern
I believe that the answer to that question is are the pubs of Sheffield doing enough to attract customers through their doors to support them in the first place?
The busy ones are, but there is still quite a few of them out there that could try a lot harder to attract more customers particularly at this time of year when it gets dark late afternoon and it's cold and raining outside and public transport is not quite what it used to be.
AÂ lot of people are quite happy to stay at home and drink well known massively discounted beer, wines and spirits brands from the local supermarket, so really it's up to pubs to improve their standards and ensure that they are welcoming to customers and that the food and drink products they serve are the best quality available.
This can be done by sourcing more niche products not normally found in the average supermarket, and of course one of the main products in my opinion is our national drink which is cask conditioned Real Ale which won't be found in any supermarket in the style that it is dispensed over a bar, and there are so many styles available from Stouts,Blondes, Best Bitters ,IPAs, Winter warmersÂ the list goes on and on.
And, most importantly of all food and drink outlets, as with any other business, have a duty to ensure that all their offerings are served well presented by knowledgeable well trained staff.
This formula I believe will make sure that the customers feel happy, and that they are getting value for money which should guarantee their continual support by returning on a regular basis.Â Â