Gallery: Is time running out for rural pubs?

TWENTY Suffolk pubs were forced to call time for good last year and it has been warned more are facing the prospect of closure as testing trading conditions take their toll.

Russell Claydon

TWENTY Suffolk pubs were forced to call time for good last year and it has been warned more are facing the prospect of closure as testing trading conditions take their toll.

A survey of the plight of the pub industry in the county has revealed 20 establishments were lost from the county in 2008 - nearly seven times as many as the three lost in 2007.

And with four pubs already closing their doors this month, industry analysts have warned the cherished tradition of 'popping down to the local' could soon become a thing of the past for communities across the county.


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The combination of the economic downturn, the underlying impact of the smoking ban and cheap supermarket prices are being blamed for wiping pubs off the map.

In the wake of the glum picture The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), has issued a rallying cry for people to “use them or lose them”.

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Kevin Waterson, the West Suffolk representative for CAMRA said: “Pubs are closing left, right and centre; somebody needs to take the bull by the horns and change the system.

“January is always a difficult month with the lull after the busy Christmas period. If pubs can survive through January they should hopefully be ok.

“I would urge people to go out and support their local pub and join CAMRA to help us campaign and support the industry.

“We are trying to help pubs, campaigning where we can and trying to talk to the government to try and sort out a way forward. At the moment the situation is going nowhere.”

He added the two long-standing issues that have plagued the industry in recent years remain the smoking ban and cheap supermarket prices.

“Obviously even before the credit crunch it has been very difficult for pubs because of supermarkets selling beers at very reduced prices, that has been the main stigma,” he said. “The smoking ban is also another contributing factor to the struggles. When we talked to people about it the general idea was people would still come out to pubs but it has not happened. Pubs have a very difficult time trying to make a living,” Mr Waterson added.

Despite the negative outlook for the future of the pub industry CAMRA did stress there were success stories to learn from.

The Fox and Hound at Thurston, nominated for West Suffolk pub of the year for the last two years, was singled out as an example to other struggling pubs across the county.

Mr Waterson said: “It is a great example of a success story. They have a good balance with a pool table for younger customers, another area for older people and a restaurant area. They also serve a good range of beers and ales and attract a good range of people.

“Those most at risk are smaller village pubs that just sell a few beers and a range of food that extends to cheese and onion or salt and vinegar.

“The pitch for a successful pub in my opinion is attracting people to come for good food and selling a good range of ales and beers.”

With lower priced beers and ales adorning the shelves of all the major supermarkets a key to the success of local pubs is offering something a bit different, sourcing ales from local brewers.

Mr Waterson added: “It is important to offer something a bit different from the supermarkets. In East Anglia there is a wide range of micro brewers and people do look for special local beers. Drinkers will prefer to drink ales they can't buy at the supermarkets and they taste better too.”

Although the general picture is of pubs closing their doors, a CAMRA representative highlighted the worse plight of pubs in urban areas.

Nigel Smith, the Suffolk area organiser, said: “There are less permanent closures in rural areas because of the enforcement of local planning guidelines as they have been more supportive of the remaining pubs.

“We cannot be complacent about things like that though as about 300 of the pubs in Suffolk - about 40% - are the only pub in that particular village. It is a disaster for every community when one goes.”

He added: “In Ipswich there has been a lot of large pubs on estates with huge gardens which makes them ideal redevelopment opportunities.”

Pubs that have permanently close their doors in Suffolk since 2000:

Yearly breakdown: Jan 2009: 4, 2008: 20, 2007: 3, 2006: 4, 2005: 1

Individual breakdown:

Mettingham - Tally Ho (2009)

Eyke - Elephant & Castle (2009)

Bungay - Angel (2009)

Ipswich - Haven (2009)

Bredfield - Castle (2008)

Sudbury - Bussandra's (2008)

Oulton Broad - George Borrow (2008)

Oulton Broad - Brwery Tap (2008)

Nayland - White Hart (2008)

Mildenhall - Globe (2008)

Lowestoft - Crown (2008)

Lowestoft - Lacon Arms (2008)

Lowestoft - O'Reilly's (2008)

Ixworth Thorpe - Royal Oak (2008)

Ipswich - Black Horse (2008)

Ipswich - Racecourse (2008)

Ipswich - Silver Star (2008)

Ipswich - Great White Horse (2008 - may reopen)

Ipswich - Railway (2008)

Ipswich - Victoria (2008)

Ipswich - Yates (2008)

Great Cornard - Queen's Arms (2008)

Chelmondiston - Foresters' Arms (2008)

Bungay - Three Tuns (2008)

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