According to data from CAMRA, pub closures continue to grow, with figures showing 29 pubs are being lost every week and rural pubs are suffering the biggest hit, but is there a solution?
The plight of rural pubs is often laid at the doorsteps of pub companies and yet evidence shows that the demise is more associated with a growing backlash against alcohol in the UK, with per capita consumption declining by 18% since 2004, meaning that in order to survive, pub owners are having to work much harder to retain and gain customers.
Frankie Aspin, landlord at The De La Pole Arms in Wingfield, Suffolk knows only too well the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to making a rural pub a success.
“When we took over The De La Pole it was obvious that although the building is a pub through-and-through there needed to be more to it if it were to succeed,” explains Frankie. “As part of our strategy we have adopted a more ‘village/community’ centric approach, with a village bar, deli counter, shop and restaurant, opening from early in the morning for breakfast, through lunch and on into the evening for the drinkers.”
Frankie explains that despite the many services the pub now offers, the drinkers are still very special to them as that is traditionally the heart and soul of any country pub. “We offer well looked after real ale, along with a large and very diverse wine selection, soft drinks, tea and coffee. However, we still wanted to go a step further for those that drive, or who don’t want to drink alcohol.”
He saw an opportunity to offer a decent alcohol-free beer and looked for one that he could offer on tap, rather than in the bottle. “We chose St Peter’s Without. It is a beer that is not a diminished alternative to an existing beer, but a beer that stands on its own, with its own taste and reason for being.”
He says that it’s made a big difference for his drinking clientele, who want to stay for a few but don’t always want to drink alcohol. “It is a drink that a real ale drinker can have as ‘one for the road’, without compromising on the beer drinking experience.”
According to Steve Magnall, CEO at St Peter’s Brewery, which also runs its pub, The Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell, a quality range of alcohol-free drinks could well be the solution for the growing demise of rural pubs. “People need a choice and we believe high quality AF ales are the answer. Low alcohol drinks are not really an option for those who want to either avoid alcohol entirely or who have already had one pint. They are a waste of time,” explains Steve.
“We launched St Peter’s Without® to give people a real choice. It is brewed just like a normal beer, but with zero alcohol. It offers another choice for ale drinkers and gives pubs a fighting chance to retain their customers beyond one drink. Best of all, Without® is the only alcohol-free beer available on tap.”
For more information about The De La Pole visit www.thedelapole.co.uk
For images or samples of St Peter’s Without contact Nikki Whiteford on 07733 261843 or email [email protected]