Friday, 15 June 2012

Development...but at what cost?

The furore and discussion regarding the duty beer escalator will quite rightly continue, probably with no satisfactory conclusion for pub lovers. However, there are other factors that are contributing to the reported record number of closures per week. The exact figure is disputed - a pub that closes and re-opened by another brewery still counts as a closure by the bods that collect the stats. What isn't in dispute is the alarming rate at which 'To Let' and 'For Sale' signs are flying up.

Of course - the duty is key but there are other causes leading to hubs of the community closing and people staying at home. Thanks to a tip off from Eating Isn't Cheating Neil, I recently purchased Oakham Citra at just £1.39 for a 500ml bottle from B&M having previously paid £3.20 a pint from a local pub. The social side of the bar may be missing from the drinking experience but less money was missing from my wallet.

Keith Bott, Managing Director of Titanic Brewery and Chair of the Society of Independent Brewers recently said,

“With 300,000 young people employed in the industry (1 in 12 of 16-24 year olds in employment), it is clear that with the right policies in place, pubs could be an engine for growth and create new jobs for young people.

“The Government must now call time on this unfair policy which is destroying jobs in a traditional British industry.”

However, another consideration has to be development and redevelopment. This is increasingly evident here in Stoke-on-Trent. A revered real ale pub is due for demolition to make way for a new shopping centre. The development - in principal - is fantastic for the area, however the loss of 'The Coachmakers' is disheartening and I would suggest, unnecessary. Incorporating this award winning pub would maintain some of our local heritage, ensure that the 'City Centre' keeps a proper boozer (with only the Unicorn as another of a note in that vicinity) and would mean the envisaged increase in footfall coming into the shoppers mecca would have decent beer to drink.

Titanic and other local brewers such as Lymestone and Slaters continue to fight the trend and look to expand. Lymestone are due to open Lymestone Vaults in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Titanic are constantly on the look out for new premises. All credit to them but they need help from the powers that be.

This isn't only the case for the pub trade. Roberto's, established for over 30 years, is embedded in the 'Cultural Quarter' and serves excellent Italian food. The plan was for the business to be passed down through generations to come but a new hotel complex means the imminent demolition of a popular and well respected venue. Maybe there is a political motive behind the siting of the hotel in that particular part of Hanley but surely the forever stretching wasteland that used to contain much loved housing and businesses could have served the same purpose. It seems not.

There is then of course The Hole In The Wall. Stokies (and probably most people in the Midlands) know this story of the terraced house that had served our beloved oatcakes since the 1920s.

The question I have is - if Derby and other similar cities and towns develop with heritage in mind, why can't Stoke-on-Trent be allowed to do the same?

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