COMMENT: Time has come to stop the erosion of city’s pub life

Mutiny Festival 2017 Picture: Paul Windsor

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So much of what makes Portsmouth a great city is down to its history.

A big proportion of its economy relies on converting that glorious past into hard cash by attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.

Inextricably linked to that sense of history is the city’s pub culture.

Whether you are a drinker or a non-drinker, it cannot be denied that public houses have played an important part in our social history, not only as a focal point in the community for people to meet, but also where many organisations and clubs were formed in times past and as venues where tradesmen sealed a deal over a pint of ale.

Little more than a century ago, during the First World War, Portsmouth had 305 pubs and 372 beerhouses. Today, all that remain are about 150 pubs.

Many that have gone in the past decade or so have been long-standing focal points for their communities, all part of Portsmouth’s past.

Something needs to be done to stop the rot and Portsmouth City Council is not helping – the same council that puts so much emphasis on cashing in on tourism.

As we report today, when that authority cannot see the sense in granting a pub such as The Eldon Arms an Asset of Community Value listing, perhaps there is no hope.

Of course, there will be those who argue that in a market economy only the strongest should survive. But there are times when the heart should rule the head. This is one of them.

If bodies such as the National Trust can see sense in owning and successfully running a handful of historic pubs, why not a local authority?

Forget that listing. If the council is all about building and maintaining a wonderful sense of community in this city, why not buy a pub of note and run it. Radical, yes; but it might just work and, who knows, there could be votes in it.