Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Cause and effect

Newtons Third Law Of Motion states: "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Now although in economic and social terms it would be harder to apply this law absolutely, there is, I'm sure, some parallels.

The smoking ban is a clear example. From my biased view point I am now very pleased about the smoking ban, primarily because the style of pub I run has probably benefited and also because I am now a non smoker as a result. It is clear that there are many pubs not in this situation. It is one of the myriad of effects that are causing problems with some pubs as smokers who might not smoke in their own homes, now feel they might as well smoke on their own door step. I might be the case that for the health of the nation and to weed out the poorest of pubs this is worth the pain, or maybe not.

The CAMRA full pints campaign claims that the pub industry is ripping of consumers to the tune of £481 million a year. Firstly, if this were to be true then the pub industry would not be in the terrible state it is in. The truth is that many pubs are struggling to make a profit. Many larger brewery's are reporting dropping profits. So where is this mystical £481 million going?

It may well be the case that more clarity is required for the pint measure. A lined glass does show clearly the pint mark. The reality is that if legislation were to be brought in to ensure pints were uniform, to the line, then more product would be used, costing the pub more and so the only way to maintain profitability would be to put up the price of the pint. Cause and effect.

Since owning my own pub I have become more aware of the number of people who have tried to make a living out of the pub industry and failed. I know a significant number of people that have tried very hard to make their pub work and found the rewards just not significant enough to be worth the effort. Many of these people are significantly disillusioned and would never run a pub again, despite having gained significant experience along the way.

The Community Pub Inquiry there is a mention, if disappointingly brief, about how increasingly difficult it is to find people to run pubs. (see para 40 page 12). It would be useful for the industry to find a way to make running a pub attractive again. This would be especially good if we could find a way to retain valuable skills lost due to failing pubs.

Kipling often comes to mind during our days here, and at the risk of going against the quote, I find this useful:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

I believe a prerequisite for being a good licensee is a desire to achieve the aims of Kipling in "If" His advice is hard to achieve and I regularly fail on the first two lines:

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

I do believe many achieve this, and go on to "build 'em up with worn-out tools". The great shame is that they rebuild away from the pub industry, and often without breath of the loss they suffered at the hands of the industry.

The inability of a freeholder to achieve market value for a failing pub drives many away from the industry vowing never to return. Having lost their all, but perhaps not wanting ever to share the experience of their failure with others.

One of my criticisms of the Community Pub Inquiry, and I hesitate to criticise an otherwise excellent piece of work, is that it suggests that it should be made harder for pubs to have their uses changed. I believe that there are huge numbers of past licensees who have lost much, and gained nothing other that skills that the pub industry needs. Failing to allow individuals to sell their property for it's true market value is driving people out of the industry. Cause and effect.

It may well be true that this pub or that is an important part of the community. But if the community is unable or unwilling to financially support the establishment then is it fair that we burn out an increasing number of good people and insisting that there is an ever decreasing value for pub property?

I believe there are many CAMRA campaigns where the end result of the campaigning may be doing more harm to the pub industry than is realised. I believe that the message from the Inquiry towards planning restrictions on change of use comes from CAMRA HQ. I strongly believe that we need a shrinkage in the number of pubs to make the remainder better and to match the number of available people to the number of pubs - otherwise, the likes of me, the enthusiastic licensee, will disappear completely.

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