New year could have been swansong for pubs

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LAST night may have been one of the busiest of the year for pubs, but landlords in and around Portsmouth are looking at a bleak future.

This year alone, 10 pubs have closed in Portsmouth, with several more shutting their doors in Gosport and Portchester.

It is a trend that landlords and pub campaigners fear will continue into next year.

Barry Kewell, landlord of the Northcote Hotel and the Rutland Arms in Southsea, said the closures are due to high rents charged by pub companies, low cost booze at supermarkets and larger chains pricing smaller pubs out of the market.

Mr Kewell, who is also chairman of the Albert Road and Southsea Pubwatch, said: 'It's just not possible for the small pubs to compete – there's only so much trade to go round and there doesn't seem to be as much community support as there used to be. I think there are a few more pubs in this town to close next year. They're not making any money, they're just about covering their bills, and there's only so long that can go on for.

'Most pub companies are property companies really. They'll sell the pubs and build flats on the land.' The Beresford and The Stamshaw Hotel in Twyford Avenue, and the Coastguard Tavern in Clarendon Road have all been closed and will become flats.

The New Inn, Drayton, is set to reopen as an Indian restaurant in February.

Meanwhile The Blue Anchor in Kingston, The Railway in Cosham, The Royal Exchange in Fawcett Road, Smiffy's Bar on Goldsmith Avenue, and The Wheelbarrow, in Kent Road, are all closed and have an uncertain future.

The Linden Lea in Portchester is closed, while in Gosport the Kings Head and Wych Way Inn have been turned into shops, the Wheatsheaf in Brockhurst Road has been fenced off and the Royal Arms in Stoke Road is boarded up.

Richard Collins, of pub enthusiast website portsmouthpubs.org, said: 'Few people want to take over local pubs these days because of the astronomic rents that big pub companies expect tenants to pay. Add to this the fact that they often have to purchase drinks at over-inflated prices from the pubco in a tied arrangement and it's no surprise that we're losing so many traditional pubs.'