There is a simple answer to anyone who bemoans the loss of yet another long-standing pub in Portsmouth: ‘If it was that popular then it would not have been closed.’
But as so many simple answers are, that answer is unhelpful and misses the point of the argument.
The Brewers Arms in Milton Road, known by many Pompey fans for a pre and post-match pint, has been closed for a while. There had been hopes that it would be back open again but now a planning application has gone in to demolish it – and as we have seen with other pubs in that area, such as The White House, once we get to that stage the wrecking ball is not far away.
For a while now The News, through our Love Your Local page, has sought to highlight what pubs bring to an area. It’s our view that far from being just vendors of alcohol, they are an important community space. In a networked online world, where it is possible to spend days on end without speaking to other humans, pubs draw an area together, whether they are in the country or the city.
But, as we have long documented, they face challenges. Beer taxes are high, and as in other walks of life independents face competition from the big chains, which can afford to keep their prices down.
And in that cut-throat climate, it is not surprising that eventually owners of the land look at the money to be made from selling houses and look to cash in their assets for property.
So we can only repeat calls we have made before. Legal protection for pubs should be increased – and while it may not have been appropriate in this case we would like to see pubs in Portsmouth named as assets of community value to enable more of a chance of them being taken over by the community.
We still believe that the government could do more to ease the strain on pubs by making beer taxes on retailers and pubs more equal, to enable a level playing field.
But we would also say, without encouraging over-consumption or over-spending, that if we value our pubs we have to visit them.