Country pubs are a dying breed
By Alison WithersTHE traditional country pub could become a relic of the past, campaigners are warning today.About 20 rural inns are forced to close each month because of falling trade and the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said while the number of new pubs opening balances out those closing, most of the new outlets are in towns and cities.
By Alison Withers
THE traditional country pub could become a relic of the past, campaigners are warning today.
About 20 rural inns are forced to close each month because of falling trade and the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said while the number of new pubs opening balances out those closing, most of the new outlets are in towns and cities.
The findings, based on feedback from Camra's network of branches, appears to confirm research published in 2001 by the British Beer and Pub Association, which said six rural pubs closed each week in England and Wales, leaving half of all villages without a pub.
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Camra will issue its warning today at the start of its first National Pubs Week, which aims to get more people to visit their local.
It comes as research for the campaign group showed 21% of people in East Anglia never visited a pub and only 16% visited their local more than once a week.
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Tony Jerome, from Camra, said finding fresh ways to attract new customers was now the key to the survival of many country pubs.
"If we are to reduce pub closures, then pubs have got to learn to be more proactive and find out what their locals want from a pub," he added.
One example of a successful pub is The Swan, in Little Totham, near Maldon, which will be named today named as Camra's National Pub of the Year.
Camra's head of campaigns, Mike Benner, said: "There are far more places to socialise nowadays and British pubs have to realise that they face far heavier competition than ever before.
"They must learn to compete and need to find out what their customers really want from the pub and market themselves accordingly.
"Everybody in the pub and beer industry is beginning to realise that we all need to work together to get people back in pubs and encourage pubs to be more pro-active."
One couple who have made their pub the heart of village life are Mike and Julie Davis, of the White Hart in Blythburgh.
They turned a former barn at the front of the pub's car park into a village shop and post office with help from the East of England Development Agency, which gave them a redundant building grant to help with the conversion.
The pub also runs a dry cleaning service and a video library – and the couple's enterprise earned them an accolade from Prince Charles, who called the White Hart his kind of local and cited it as an example for pubs across the UK to follow.
Suffolk County Council also gave a village shop development grant to help the couple with the interior fittings.