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Why Local Pubs Matter: Preserving Culture, Building Community, and Supporting Small Businesses

The local pub has been a cornerstone of communities for centuries. It’s a place where people can gather to socialize, enjoy a meal, and have a few drinks.

But in recent years, local pubs have been struggling to stay afloat, with many closing their doors for good, Pubs in the area such as The Boot Inn, Shipton Bellinger, who had a fantastic reputation for their food and also The Weyhill Fair in Weyhill. Both pubs announced that they were closing and selling last year. This is partly due to the rise of major chain pubs and restaurants, which have the financial resources to dominate the market. With the cost of living and rising energy prices many pubs & restaurants are facing an uncertain future.

According to real estate consultancy Altus Group, the number of pubs in England and Wales is now at its lowest point on record, down by more than 7,000 in the last decade.

Despite the upheaval of the pandemic, the downward trend started well before the virus, with younger people drinking less, supermarkets slashing prices and businesses being heavily taxed.

However, there are many reasons why we need to support local pubs & venues.

Firstly, local pubs are an essential part of the local economy. They provide jobs for local people, and the money spent in them stays in the community. In contrast, major chains often bring in their own staff, and the profits made are often funelled back to headquarters. By supporting local pubs, we can help to ensure that our communities thrive economically.

Secondly, local pubs are often the heart of their communities. They are places where people can come together to socialize and build relationships. They are also often used as meeting places for local groups and organizations. By supporting local pubs, we are supporting the social fabric of our communities.

Thirdly, local pubs often serve local produce and support local businesses. This not only helps to sustain local agriculture and food industries, but it also means that the food served in local pubs is often of a higher quality than that served in major chain pubs. By supporting local pubs, we are supporting local farmers and producers, which in turn benefits the local economy and reduces the carbon footprint of transportation. They also tend to use less packaging and disposable items, which reduces waste. By supporting local pubs, we are supporting sustainable practices that benefit the environment.

Fourthly, local pubs often have a unique character and charm that is absent from major chain pubs. They are often run by people who are passionate about their business and who take pride in serving their customers. This creates a welcoming and friendly atmosphere that is hard to replicate in a major chain pub. By supporting local pubs, we are supporting the preservation of local culture and heritage.

In conclusion, there are many reasons why we need to support local pubs over major chains. By doing so, we can help to sustain local economies, support local agriculture and food industries, preserve local culture and heritage, and promote sustainable practices. So next time you’re thinking of heading to a pub, consider supporting your local instead of a major chain. Your community will thank you for it.

We spoke to 2 local publicans for their opinion on why local pubs matter:

Alex Gilles landlord of The Station Inn

Alex & Romana Gilles have been operating The Station Inn for the past 18 years. They are a cornerstone to the community and their support has seen them raise over £25,000 for charities. They were active in providing support through the pandemic and more recently the War In Ukraine.

The couple acquired the 18th century property in 2005, just after a ‘credit crunch’ then a recession.

Having invested tens of thousands of pounds of their own money into the venue, they have weathered the storm of running a pub in ways that many others could not tolerate, and continue to be a staple in the community.

The pub also supports the local music scene and regularly have live music on. The popular Rice ‘n’ Roll Japanese food venue operates from the kitchens of the Station.

Could you describe what sets your pub apart from other establishments in the same area?

“In general, all pubs should have the same basic principals;

Good fresh beers and a reasonable selection of other drinks at an acceptable price

Clean, tidy establishment, everything working as it should; this to my mind is particularly important, especially with regard to toilets which are often ignored.

Staff are the most important part of the pub and should be able to:

Pull a pint, from real ale to European Lagers (Yes, the technique is often different for different beers)

Smile, even when the customer might not be what we might like them to be.

Understand that customers needs are different, take this under consideration. Simple things like if a customer has a liking for a particular type/shape of glass, how much ice if any they prefer, are they the type that likes to chat, they might stay at the bar in the hopes of you having a conversation with them, or do they prefer to sit quietly at a table and read the local paper. In other words, they need to be able to get to know the customer.

Be aware of potential problems from customers; are they becoming drunk, are they having a disagreement with another person, are they getting rowdy, are they disturbing other customers. Are they able to see, intercept and calm a situation before it gets out of control.

What benefits does your pub bring to the local community? Pubs have been proven to help many charities

“Andover in particular has quite a few and the local pubs have been proven to help these. For example, around 10 years ago I was approached by Councillor Jim Neal for help to keep Andover Young Carers alive. He informed me if I could not help them within the week they would have to close.

To cut a long story short, I held a charity night for them during which my customers were told all about them. In the weeks that followed we raised a large amount of money and over the next year supplied them with food which they used to ensure the carers had at least one good meal a day. At the same time we spread the name of Andover Young Carers around the community including the Masonic lodges who regularly support them financially. They are now financially stable all because we did what we did.

“In the time we have been here, 18+ years, I believe we have supported local and not so local (Prostate Cancer UK, Air Ambulance etc.) to the value of over £25000.00 thanks to our customers and our “Matching” donations.

In your opinion, what role do local pubs play in bringing people together and fostering a sense of community?

“In the Station, we have many and varied customers. Some come for a quick pint on the way home on a Friday, some come for the music nights, some for games nights. In most, although not every case, they come in the understanding they will probably meet other people with which to talk to.

We have customers who meet up to discuss business, some come in after a game of golf, others because they have something on their mind and feel the need to simple talk it over with another person, “A trouble shared is a trouble halved” etc. in other words, it is a meeting place for just about anyone who would like company or just peace and quiet to read a newspaper. We believe it when we say Come in a stranger, leave a friend.”

How have you adapted to changing customer needs and preferences over time, and what steps have you taken to remain relevant in today’s market?

“In general, market forces should not affect the day to day running of a pub. Yes our opening hours have been reduced due to the lack of custom during the day and in the evenings early in the week. Our prices have and will unfortunately go up again soon due to increases in our supplier rates, these changes should not affect the actual front of house operation i.e. the customer experience.

With regard to the business owner however, and what he needs to do with regard to running the back of house, there are more and more regulations, changes in how the pub must comply with regarding for instance how Tax and VAT digitisation for instance. These increase the need for small businesses to require an accountant where in the past they could have managed to do it themselves. This is another cost to add to the continuous increases we are all having to contend with.

What challenges have you faced as a local pub owner, and how have you overcome them?

“There are to many to discuss. Increased prices, HMRC digitisation, increased maintenance and repair costs, reduced footfall in the pub, customers not having the same spare ash to spend, and reduced need for accommodation.

How do you engage with and support other local businesses and organizations in the community?

“We have arrangements with some local companies where we use their abilities where we can, purchasing equipment, maintenance etc. They in turn use our premises for there staff meetings/parties etc. We also allow community based companies to use one of our rooms for meetings at no charge.

In your experience, what are some of the benefits of socializing and spending time in a local pub versus other types of establishments?

“In general there is more flexibility in a pub. For instance, you are sitting at a table with a couple of friends when another couple of people come in, you stand up and arrange to sit together. You come in and see someone you know standing at the bar, you go and have a chat with them before going over to meet the person you came in to see and spend time with them. In other words you can basically, move around a pub as much as space will allow, you could not do this in a restaurant or café with ease.

Finally, what would you say to people who may not have considered supporting their local pub before?

Come in and give it a try. If you are bored or stressed or just want to get out the house, you will find people to talk to, you can join in with a game of pool, darts or other table games, or even have a chat with the bar staff when they have a minute. As a local the chances are you might meet someone you haven’t seen for a long time.

Yvonne Burns landlady of The Angel Inn

The Angel In is Andover’s oldest and most historic Inn and is almost as old as Andover itself. Situated at the top of the High Street in Andover it is said to be the seventh oldest public house in England.

A stretch of wall in the back corridor dates back to the year 1174 when Henry II was King of England. Throughout its long existence The Angel has hosted many Royal visitors. King John who gave Andover its Royal charter in 1201 is thought to have stayed at the Inn. Later both Edward I and Edward II visited the Inn. Another notable visitor was Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIIs first wife, who stayed in 1501. It is said that the Angel is not haunted by royalty or noble guests but by two elderly farmers.

The pubs currently landlady, Yvonne Burns has made the pub a welcoming venue.

Could you describe what sets your pub apart from other establishments in the same area?

“We have an amazing log open fire which is lit every evening in winter. The Inn has all original wood beams and stone flag stone tiles throughout. The Angel has two beautiful outdoor courtyards, which are sun traps in summer.

We offer table service which is always delivered by our wonderful friendly staff. Our prices are very competitive for the area.”

What benefits does your pub bring to the local community? Pubs have been proven to help many charities

“The Angel Inn always participates in local charity events most of which are organised by Andover radio in which we have raised money for local charities.

We have live music every weekend which attracts people for far and near . Really proud of the fact that we never encounter any trouble so our customers always feel safe and relaxed. On hot summers days we have BBQ’s which attracts families with children and we are dog friendly.

In your opinion, what role do local pubs play in bringing people together and fostering a sense of community?

“Local pubs play a huge part in bring the community together. Some of our regular customers are elderly and lonely. They love nothing more than coming in for a beer and company.

We amongst many local pubs and venues in the area are huge supporters of live music and we see many different people coming to support the local musical talent we have here in Andover. Our open mic nights are always popular and we have seen many new musicians come through and hone their talent at our pub.”

What challenges have you faced as a local pub owner, and how have you overcome them?

“As a pub owner our biggest challenge is to keep our prices as affordable as possible in this time of increasing cost of living. Energy rates are soaring so having an eye on how to save money but not at the expense of the customer is a challenge in itself.”

In your experience, what are some of the benefits of socializing and spending time in a local pub versus other types of establishments?

Your local pub is a place where we can all let our hair down and destress after a hard days work. It’s a place where you get to socialise and make to new friends. In the Angel Inn our moto is to enter as a stranger and leave as a friend. It is a place you can relax and enjoy good time with friends and family. It is a source of community spirit”.

Finally, what would you say to people who may not have considered supporting their local pub before?

“There are many things that happen in local pubs than just having a drink. It is a place to go to enjoy events that happen. We are proud that we host live music every weekend. We know many pubs do this and it’s really amazing to see in this town. But also pubs are a vital part of the community, pubs are a great place to connect with neighbours and build a sense of community. It’s a place where people from all walks of life can come together and socialize, which can help to create a more cohesive community.”