This week we are investigating the plight of Britain’s village watering holes, as around four are closing every week. How can this be when everyone seems to treasure them so deeply and tourists say they are the third most important reason for visiting this country?
Yeah, I wonder.
Today we’ve been in the Derbyshire village of Parwich, filming in the Sycamore. One secret of survival here is opening another business in the pub. In fact when you walk in the door it looks more like a family home. But on the right is a door marked ‘shop’ – it used to be the dining room. It may be small but it’s an Aladdin’s cave of household goods - puncture repair kits and packing tape, cauliflowers and lighter fuel.Which frankly means that Janet is a bit of an idiot and not running much of a business and that if Janet quits or retires and they don't get an idiot, that pub will also close.
Janet, the publican/shopkeeper/mother of a toddler, says she simply stocks what people want. What she’d like is for locals just to spend a bit more with her and swerve the supermarket delivery van. It’s a devotional existence, more like a calling than a job. Janet puts in around 80 hours a week and, when she plots income against her time, she receives barely half the minimum wage.
Most pubs are owned by either breweries or big pub companies. Many of these are in serious financial trouble, some owing billions to the bank. But their spokesman insisted they weren’t leeching money from the local boozer to pay off their debts, blaming instead the government for high duty and VAT on alcohol.Did all the bright people leave the pubco industry as well? VAT is uniform on alcohol, whether bought in a pub or a supermarket, yet supermarkets are not being hit like pubs are.
The only thing that strongly correlates with sudden pub closures is the smoking ban. To not even mention it seems like a deliberate omission.