Pictured: Ed Harper, landlord at the Gorringe Park pub in south London, has installed a "boutique movie room," restaurant and private dining room. But he says the essence of a traditional local pub remains the friendly atmosphere of a "home away from home." (Photo: Naomi Westland)
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"It's a focal part of the community," said Graham Hill, 65, a regular of the Victorian pub. "People of all ages can meet here, and you're a friend, not just a customer. It would be a great loss if it were to close."
But regular pubgoers the length and breadth of the country are facing just that, as the Great British pub is forced out by modern life and financial troubles. As a result, names like the King's Head, the White Hart and the Old Red Lion could be names soon consigned to history books rather than British high streets and village greens.
"What has always fascinated me is that when a shop closes there is sadness, but when a pub closes there is such an emotional reaction, people are outraged, even those who don't use the pub, because it is vital to a community's well-being," said John Longden, chief executive of Pub is the Hub, a scheme spearheaded by Prince Charles that helps landlords and local communities to revive ailing pubs.
Despite their storied history at the very heart of British society dating back to the Roman empire, many pubs haven't been able to withstand the effects of the economic crisis and the very modern phenomenon of cheap supermarket booze, often sold at prices six times lower than in the pub.
"Some supermarkets are selling beer for cheaper than water," explained Tony Jerome, a spokesman for the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) which promotes community pubs, and traditional, unfiltered, unpasteurized beer. "You can pick up a 5% beer for 80 cents a can, the equivalent in a pub could be $5.50."
The locals, as pubs are known colloquially, are closing at a rate of 18 per week, according to the latest figures. Nearly 6,000 landlords having gone out of business in the last four years. Since 2008, the number of regular pubgoers in the U.K. has declined by 3 million.
A business model focused on short-term profit and above-inflation yearly tax increases on beer, known as the beer-escalator, has led to many pubs being unable to survive.
SOURCE: Naomi Westland