Britain’s pubs face unhappy hours

Image: Lucy Wegerif

Image: Lucy Wegerif

Widely known as the unofficial pub-capital of the UK, York has its fair share of public houses, which at the present time are at the centre of a heated debate. Two local York pubs have recently been taken over by supermarket giants Tesco and Co-operative. A loophole in planning law allows pubs to be converted to supermarket stores without planning permission.

The future of York’s pubs are threatened in order to make room for more supermarkets to add to the over-saturated market. Apparently there aren’t enough Sainsbury’s Locals and Tesco Express’s around.

Pub closures are a creeping phenomenon taking place across the UK and one that is unwelcomed by many, including students. According to The Campaign for Real Ale, UK pubs are closing at a rate of 30 of week, with an average of two pubs a week being converted into supermarkets between January 2012-14. Although, it is important to note that it is the pubs further away from the centre of a city which are affected by this, those in the centre are more prone to being taken over by the larger pub chains.

Tourism in York links closely to the pub industry. Let’s face it, there is a pub on pretty much every street corner and most of them are brimming with some kind of history which should be preserved.

For this reason we should welcome petitions such as ‘Be vocal for your local’, started by the York Press. York residents should be given the right to have a say in the future of the York pub industry, particularly as it plays such an important role in the city’s touristic and financial makeup.

The survival of independent pubs is not only threatened by supermarket takeovers, but also the growing increase in pub chains adding pubs to their corporate army. Something which could be considered worse than supermarkets sucking any inkling of independence from York’s drinking scene is the dominance of pub chains such as Stonehouse. Yes, they may serve up competitive prices, but is it worth drinking in a characterless environment in order to save a few pennies?

Off-campus favourite pub The Charles is part of the Stonegate chain, something that not many of us know about because it’s not exactly made explicitly clear, and that’s for a reason. Such pubs within the chains are made to feel ‘independent’ as it’s more likely to draw customers in.

In terms of price, some of the more traditional independent pubs cannot compete with the low prices that the pub chains offer. This forces them to consider selling the land off to potential investors such as supermarkets.

The future of our local pubs is jeopardised by money-hungry corporations. Something should be done to protect our pubs, as it would be a shame to lose an important piece of British culture.

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