A repository of articles, musings and hazy recollections concerning pubs and beer from a London-dwelling beer user.
Monday, 26 October 2009
Missed in the beer blogging world, as far as I can see, were BSkyB's stellar 3Q earnings. Pretax profits rose 39.5% y/y while revenues shot to £1.38bn, boosted by the addition of 94,000 subscribers. The twitterati may be spluttering into their lattes about Rupert Murdoch's quaint belief he'll be able to make cash from online content by sticking it behind a paywall, but his son James knows his onions (even if he is, like his dad, a rightwing bastard).
Pubs, normally seen as a stable sector in a downturn, have endured terrible trading conditions in this recession. This reflects a number of changes in society, both its leisure options and attitudes to alcohol. As I've written before, with the likes of facebook making the spontaneous pint a thing of the past, that just-pop-in-for-a-brew trade is dying (see if Steve and Mary fancy a drink, organise where to meet - the tarted up cocktail bar, the Aussie wine place or is it on with the pullovers to that pub with the ales?). We work long hours, so we flop home - these days an attractive place to be, especially with the internet, on demand TV (who needs DVD boxsets?) and an exciting wave of bottled beers available from a range of sources. To the non-beer connoisseur, the price difference is far too much to warrant going to the pub frequently.
The pub is in this recession facing unparalleled leisure competition.
Add to this the puritanical tone of the baying press, constantly howling against 'Binge Britain' and I suspect there are plenty who avoid conspicuous consumption out and about and prefer to indulge at home with the husband, wife, significant other, kids or whoever they see so little of.
In this context, £30 per month for Sky+ is a no-brainer, especially given that's almost the cost of one night out down the pub if you're eating there, too.
Which means one thing - there are too many pubs and many more need to close for the sector to be competitive and for those running them to be able to make a living. This does not mean the fight to retain rural pubs is lost. There can and should be review of planning laws that assumes a community must have a pub as standard and CAMRA ought to more robustly market its knowledge on how locals can jointly campaign to save pubs and even club together to run one.
But the broader picture is this - for pubs to survive there need to be fewer of them and we need margins to rise, especially for real ale - a premium product sold at a ludicrous discount to megabrew swill. Prices will need to jump. Anyone who's boozed in Ireland will know where we're heading.