West Suffolk: Trade slump forces village pub closures

PUB-owners in west Suffolk, who have been forced to close their doors after just a year of trading, have expressed concerns about the future of village hostelries.

The Rose and Crown in Bridge Street near Long Melford closed earlier this year because of poor trade, after owner Richard Grey spent thousands renovating the early 19th-Century building.

The Compasses in Stansfield near Bury St Edmunds is the latest to inform customers it is shutting up shop. It is a similar story in Glemsford, where the landlord of the Crown pub, Ian Braddick, announced its closure a fortnight ago.

Mr Braddick bought the beamed pub, which dates back to 1510, and re-opened it after extensive renovations last September. He said: “We put a lot of work into the pub and we did quite well to start with, but there just wasn’t enough trade to sustain us.

“People seem to want to see village pubs there, but they are not prepared to support them enough.”

He added: “I am not sure that it is about money, but more about the way that culture has changed, with people staying at home and getting takeaways rather than going out to the pub.”

When Mr Grey bought the Rose and Crown in Bridge Street, it was in a poor condition and required a big investment to modernise it. After months battling with unpredictable trade, he recently reluctantly made the decision to close and return to work as a web developer.

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He said: “We even turned it into a cafe/pub where people could just call in for a sandwich to offer a point of difference.

“But although we would be busy at weekends, there was no way of predicting the level of business and we were left facing huge bills for electricity to keep the fryers going when there were often no customers. We ended up wasting food and beer and really there’s no way of sustaining a business like that.”

Mr Grey also blames the 20% VAT charge added to food served, and competition from pub chains selling meals at low prices for making the independent pub trade impossible. He added: “We were being squeezed from all directions and we have all of our money, effort and energy tied up in this place. The decision to close was really damage limitation.”

He added: “A lot of people say you have to diversify to survive but there is a limit to what kind of a business you can run from a village location like this.” He already has plans to offer bed-and-breakfast accomodation.