Pubs facing big challenges to survive

The Milton Arms, one of six Ei pubs in the Portsmouth area without a landlord
The Milton Arms, one of six Ei pubs in the Portsmouth area without a landlord
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I agree loosely the Eldon Arms can be said to provide a place to meet, shop and for recreation. However, arguably so can McDonalds.’

So wrote Claire Upton-Brown, assistant director of culture and city development at Portsmouth City Council, as she refused a bid to protect a pub.

Campaigners had hoped the Eldon Arms, in Eldon Street, Southsea, would become an asset of community value (ACV), bolstering the extra safeguards against development (see page 6).

It came after Ei Publican Partnerships (formerly Enterprise Inns) shut the pub before Christmas. The closure was the second of the firm’s pubs in the Portsmouth area.

There are now six being advertised on the pubco’s website in The News area needing landlords to come in.

So why do pubs close? Undoubtedly there are those across the country that are badly-managed and have no customer base. But many point the finger at the big pubcos, saying they care little about the pubs they manage and want to make cash, sometimes by selling the plot of land to a developer.

Nigel Firth-Penney, from the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), says the pub trade has been battling to survive against supermarket pricing, and the fact companies don’t need planning permission to convert a pub.

‘It’s been carnage in the British pub industry over the last year due to a number of different reasons,’ he says.

‘Pubs provide a focal point for communities where people can meet.’

But just this month, the pub trade has been handed a reprieve, as the big pubcos have agreed to put in applications whenever they wish to convert a pub, before the Neighbourhood Planning Bill comes into force, which will make this law.

Nigel adds: ‘Camra welcomes this because it will give better protection to pubs.

‘Unfortunately there is competition from supermarkets who can sell alcohol at reduced prices to shoppers.

‘And there are the antics of the big six pub companies.’

A spokesman from Ei Publican Partnerships says: ‘As part of our ongoing business, we do from time to time identify pubs that may no longer have a long-term future in our estate.

‘We want to reassure members of the local community that we remain committed to supporting the many existing pubs we have in Portsmouth.’

The spokesman adds: ‘We can confirm that we will submit a planning application for any intention to convert or demolish a pub site between now and the implementation of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill.’

Candidates in the upcoming general election have also voiced concern.

Tory Caroline Dinenage, who is bidding to retain her seat in Gosport, where the Glencoe and Three Tuns are on the Ei list for landlords, says pubs add £23.1bn to the UK’s economy and support 900,000 jobs.

She adds: ‘Pubs are also an important part of local community life.’

Stephen Morgan, standing in Portsmouth South for Labour, says pubs are a ‘crucial factor’ in British life.

‘I appreciate that pub companies are operating in a difficult climate, and as businesses they have a right to make a profit. But I do have concerns that certain large companies appear to be choosing routes to profit which make the life of tenant landlords extremely difficult.’

Green candidate for the same seat, Ian McCulloch, adds: ‘There is a wider problem here, that national and multinational corporations now have too much control over issues such as this which shape our local communities.’

Havant Ukip candidate John Perry says: ‘There is a case for listing the pubs as assets of community value.

‘However, central and local government need to modify policies to ensure that such businesses thrive.’

Lib Dem Portsmouth South candidate Gerald Vernon-Jackson says: ‘The loss of all these pubs means people lose their jobs and also places where members of the community meet are lost.’

PUBS NEEDING LANDLORDS

THE ELDON ARMS in Eldon Street, Southsea.

Offer: Retail partnership tenancy

Introductory rent: £14,500 a year.

Ei says: ‘The Eldon is a striking two-storey building that boasts original glazed tiled ground floor elevations and fascia, with feature twin bay windows. This traditional pub is well-regarded within the locality as a go-to venue for a relaxed drink or a game of pool with friends and Ei is looking for a passionate operator who will keep it at the heart of the community.’

THE THREE TUNS in Elson Road, Gosport.

Offer: Retail partnership tenancy

Guide rent: £26,000 a year.

Ei says: ‘The Three Tuns is a community pub located in Elson, Gosport, not far from the historic Fort Brockhurst.

‘Its two bars, games area, well-presented beer garden and large car park allow for varied trading opportunities.

‘Well-presented both internally and externally, this wonderful pub retains many traditional features that add to its character and charm. The Three Tuns has been family-run.’

THE HOEFORD INN in Gosport Road, Fareham.

Offer: Retail partnership tenancy

Introductory rent: £20,000 a year.

Ei says: ‘The Hoeford is situated on the main road between Fareham and Gosport. With a spacious car park, comfortable interior for diners and pub-goers alike, it has a special place in the heart of the community that lives nearby.

‘As the new operator, you will immerse in village life and continue the bi-weekly events that are well-received by the locals and visitors.’

THE MILTON ARMS in Milton Road, Southsea.

Offer: Retail partnership tenancy

Introductory rent: £17,500 a year.

Ei says: ‘With its striking appearance and prominent location in the heart of the popular community of Milton, this pub offers tremendous potential for a passionate and enthusiastic operator.

‘Together with large trade areas, a separate function room and a great courtyard area, the Milton Arms has many features that will be developed to realise the potential here.’

THE GLENCOE in San Diego Road, Gosport.

Offer: Retail partnership tenancy.

Guide rent: £19,000 a year.

Ei says: ‘The Glencoe is a traditional inn situated on the San Diego road within the heart of Gosport.

‘Striking in appearance, with beautiful timber beamed walls and tall windows, the pub boasts a prominent corner position on a busy stretch of road and is surrounded by residential properties. This one-bar operation caters for teams, locals and visitors alike and is well-regarded as a home from home.’

THE OLD HOUSE AT HOME in Locksway Road, Milton

Offer: Retail partnership tenancy.

Guide rent: £32,000 a year

Ei says: ‘The Old House at Home is a popular pub located in Milton.

‘Live sports, pub teams and varied events are an important driver of business.

‘It is ideally located for serving the local community and for capitalising on its proximity to Fratton Park, the home of Portsmouth Football Club. This pub has been at the heart of the local community for a number of years.’