Time being called on Suffolk's pubs

AN INCREASING number of Suffolk pubs are calling time for good because of plummeting trade, it has been claimed.

Russell Claydon

AN INCREASING number of Suffolk pubs are calling time for good because of plummeting trade, it has been claimed.

The “triple whammy” of the economic slowdown, the smoking ban, and cheap supermarket drinks has thrown the county's pub industry into crisis - and there were claims last night it could lead to pub drinkers paying £5 a pint within a few years.

Thirty-six pubs across the county have closed for good in the last five years because of progressively difficult trading conditions - and more will follow, industry analysts have warned.

It comes as the county's brewing giants, Greene King and Adnams, announced alarming decreases in year-on-year beer sales.

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has warned pub-goers could be forced to pay out £5 a pint by 2012 unless something is done to reverse the decline in the industry.

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Nigel Smith, Camra's Suffolk area organiser, said: “There have been about 200 permanent pub closures over the last 30 years in Suffolk as a whole.

“We have been through a trend of not many closing in the last 10 years - no more than two or three a year - but this year, in the big urban areas of Ipswich and Lowestoft, there has been a dramatic increase of pubs under threat of closure.”

He added one of the reasons behind the hard times for landlords was that Britain is paying the highest duty on alcohol in Europe, at around 43p on an average 4% ABV strength pint. This is in comparison to the 5p approx mark German landlords are paying.

The Swan at Alderton, near Woodbridge, could be the next pub in Suffolk to close its doors indefinitely.

Peter Saxon, who has been the owner for the past five years, is currently waiting to hear from Suffolk Coastal District Council after he reluctantly applied for permission to close.

He said: “We are gutted but there is no way we can keep it open. People in the village are just not interested anymore.

“The smoking ban was the final nail in the coffin of the industry. People are now sitting indoors and not socialising like they used. Pubs are not working anymore. I am definitely not the only one.”

David Ross, a regional secretary of the British Beer and Pub Association, said pubs were being forced to offer more than a traditional watering hole to stay afloat.

“As far as beer goes I'm afraid total beer sales are down 4.5% and beer sales in pubs are down 10.6%.

“There is no doubt there are a significant number of pubs which are closing now as a result of the triple whammy of the smoking ban, the price of beer at supermarkets and the general downturn in the economy.”

He added: “Supermarkets are charging 33p a pint and wet pubs (serving drink only) are really under strain at the moment and particularly the rural areas, like Suffolk.

“It is a tragedy as we call pubs in these areas 'the hub' as it is the centre of activity and we are hoping that the big pub estate owners will do what they can to help them in these difficult times.”

Elaine Beckett, Greene King's PR manager for its leased and tenanted pubs, said the company was currently putting in place a raft of measures to support its licensees, including a wet pub promotion.

Pubs that have closed in Suffolk over the past five years:

Hadleigh White Horse (now residential)

Haughley Railway Tavern (now residential)

Marlesford Bell (now residential)

Sweffling White Horse (now residential)

Woolpit Plough (now residential)

Aldeburgh Victoria (now a restaurant)

East Bergholt Beehive (demolished)

Kersey White Horse (now residential)

Thorington Street Rose (now residential)

Ipswich EUR (now residential)

Ipswich Harlequin

Newmarket Marquis of Granby

Ipswich Horse & Groom (may re-open soon)

Ipswich Old Bell (may become a hotel)

Stradbroke White Hart

Yoxford Blois Arms (application for conversion to residential)

Bungay Three Tuns

Chelmondiston Foresters' Arms

Ipswich Victoria (may be demolished)

Ipswich Live & Let Live (demolished 2007)

Ixworth Thorpe Royal Oak

Lowestoft Crown

Lowestoft Lacon Arms

Ipswich Waveney (demolished 2007)

Lowestoft O'Reilly's

Mildenhall Globe

Oulton Broad George Borrow

Sudbury Danny's Bar

Stanton Rose & Crown (may re-open soon)

Wortham Dolphin

Alderton Swan (Applied to close)

Ipswich Racecourse (Currently closing for redevelopment)

Ipswich Haven (Currently closing to be converted to OAP home)

Ipswich Smock

Ipswich Silver Star

Ipswich Great White Horse