We have already lost too many pubs...

We have already lost too many pubs...

By Andrew Mosley | 10/11/2020

We have already lost too many pubs...
Westgate 1962


PUBS have taken something of a hammering over the past three decades and, as Rotherham’s hospitality industry faces up to new Tier 2 Covid-19 restrictions, ANDREW MOSLEY asks what, if anything, is the future?

THE list of reasons as to why pubs are struggling is a long one.

There’s cheap supermarket booze, the smoking ban, the iron grip of the big pub companies and changes in how people use their leisure time.

In Rotherham we can add the demise of the mining and steel industries — and now Tier 3 Covid restrictions.

Gone are the days when there was a working men’s club or a pub on every street and corner outside a foundry and in a pit village, busy in the afternoon and packed of an evening with people quenching thirsts after a hard shift or joining the throng to take in the weekend’s entertainment.

People have other, cheaper and easier options. The increasing number opting for a couple of bottles of wine or a few tins from the supermarket in front of the TV has added to the problems of establishments crippled by expensive pubco rents and the disappearance of regulars who went with the smoke that used to fill these places until the ban was introduced in 2007.

Currently, about 2,000 pubs are closing nationwide, and the list of the ones gone from Rotherham over the past 20 to 30 years is a long one. The Tier 2, and now Tier 3, restrictions can only add to the problems.

Responding to restrictions being placed on South Yorkshire from Saturday, CAMRA chief executive Tom Stainer said: “Publicans have done everything to make their premises COVID-secure, and have been operating at reduced trade for months whilst trying to recover from both the first lockdown and months of reduced consumer confidence as a result of restrictions like the curfew.

“If pubs across South Yorkshire are to avoid becoming a sacrificial lamb then they need a decent, long-term financial support package. This must properly compensate pubs for having to either close altogether — or stay open with extremely low footfall whilst they serve food.  

“It also needs to help pubs pay wages before the new jobs support scheme kicks in, as well as providing help in the weeks and months after restrictions are lifted if pubs and breweries are to have any chance of getting back on their feet and avoiding having to close their doors for good before Christmas.”

A scan of the Lost Pubs of Rotherham website provides what is a literally sobering reminder of the serious difficulties the industry has already faced. The Comedian, The Shakespeare, The Belvedere, The Clifton, The Millmoor, The Temple, The Alma and The Dusty Miller are among the list of notables that many will remember drinking in.

The Sheffield Forum website features a thread called Drinking in Rotherham in the 70s, with those posting listing pub after pub, many of which are no longer with us.

Gary writes: “Wellgate in particular was a buzzing place for many years. Start at the Clifton, Mason’s Arms, Albion Road Club, Hare and Hounds, Mailcoach, Cleaver and then into town.”

And TAT adds: “It was not unusual to do several nightclubs in one evening... and no one has mentioned the Kimmy pub crawl... Colin Campbell, Green Dragon, Travellers, Manor Barn, Wilton, Woodman, New Inn, Midland, Prince of Wales, Swan, Millmoor and the one near Tiffs before the Travellers.

“There was Meadowbank Road... Meadowbank Hotel (gone), George (gone) Miners (gone), Turner Arms (gone).

“Thorpe Hesley in the 70s was mental, Masons, New Inn (gone), Red Lion, Horse and Tiger, Blacksmiths (gone), Ball Inn and the Travellers.” You get the picture. Nostalgia is fascinating, but it can also be extremely sad.

On the flipside, there have been valiant attempts to re-energise the trade with the opening up of micro-breweries and independents such as The Three Cranes, The Cutlers’ Arms, the Loading Bay, the George Wright Boutique Hotel and Bar and The Sports Box, but here’s the rub...

Pub owners reacted as you would expect to the news that, not only must they close between 10am and 5pm, but Rotherham residents can not socialise indoors with anyone not in their household or support bubble, whether at home or in public.

Within a day, the Cutlers’ Arms, on Westgate, posted a Facebook message that read: “Yesterday saw our worst day since re-opening in July, probably our worst day since we opened in 2013!

“We know that times are strange but please continue to support us as amazingly as you have been doing. We don’t want to close, but for the Government to leave businesses (pubs/restaurants specifically) under such strict restrictions with no financial support after zero scientific results leading to hospitality is not just immoral but it’s a death certificate for hospitality.”

Everyone understands restrictions need to be in place to protect people’s health, but if they close businesses and put people out of work, we are going to be looking at long-term effects on people’s mental health, finances and the economy in general that could have serious implications for Rotherham, which is pinning its hopes on a town centre masterplan spearheaded by the Forge Island — cinema and restaurants — development and housing builds on Westgate and Wellgate.

Many of the businesses currently operating will also be relying on these plans to bring people into their establishments.

We seriously hope they are still here if and when the masterplan is completed.