Essex: County bucks the trend against last orders for pubs as 19 pubs reopen their doors
13:00 06 January 2014
North Essex is bucking the national trend when it comes to calling time on local pubs.
New research suggests Britain is losing its public houses at a rate of around 26 every week, with that number expected to grow during the coming year. However, according to data compiled by ale lovers across north Essex, the area’s rural landlords are showing they are not willing to throw in the beer towel without a fight.
The Campaign for Real Ale’s (Camra) Suffolk and North Essex branch lists local pub closures in its free Last Orders brochure, and remarkably in recent months, the number of re-openings in the area has matched closures.
The data shows that although 17 publicans called time on their businesses during 2013, 19 reopened for business. In the past year, a number of Essex pubs – including the Pinkuah Arms in Pentlow, The Rose and Crown at Great Horkesley and The Lion at Leavenheath on the Essex border – have closed but have either reopened or are poised to reopen.
The editors of the Good Pub Guide 2014 forecast that between 2,500 and 4,000 of the 49,500 public houses in the UK will be forced to shut this year. But Camra spokesman Nigel Smith said local data proved it was too soon to write the epitaph for pubs in north Essex and Suffolk.
“It’s true they have had a hard time in recent years but there are definitely signs of a recovery,” he said. “The big firms are selling off pubs and a lot of those are being taken on as free houses offering what today’s customers want.”
The Pinkuah Arms, which closed in November 2012 after its owners got into financial difficulty, has recently risen from the redundant pub graveyard.
A group of local people initially clubbed together to try to buy the establishment for the community but were outbid by a private buyer who has since renovated the building and put tenants in to run it.
Ten weeks ago, Alex Guye and his cousin chef Andrew Guye reopened The Pinkuah Arms and they say it is already “really busy”.
Alex said: “To make a pub work these days, you have to do top-quality food, the service has to be right, the beer has to be kept well and the surroundings have to be comfortable. You have to give people what they want.
“The Pinkuah Arms has been refurbished inside and we are planning to do some work to the garden in time for summer.
“The locals were desperate to see the pub continue and they are definitely supporting it. Considering we have only been open for a short time, we are doing really well.”
Bob Whittle, regional director of estate agent Fleurets, which specialises in the sale of pubs, said around half of those they sell will remain as pubs while the other half are destined to become business or residential properties.
Mr Whittle said: “Without a doubt, there’s a tremendous amount of people wanting to purchase pubs at the moment and our office phones are ringing regularly with potential buyers.
“Most of them find that getting finance is the biggest obstacle and the market is currently driven by cash buyers. A proportion of those are developers or speculators who may not necessarily want to run it as a pub.
“But we have a number of deals going through at the moment - including The Rose and Crown at Great Horkesley and The Lion at Leavenheath – all of which are continuing as pubs, which is good news.”