Desperate times for the pub trade

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LANDLORDS are being driven to drastic action to keep their pubs afloat as drinkers shun a night out in favour of staying home.

One town centre pub owner believes some could even be driven to break the law by turning a blind eye to underage drinkers as the money young people spend behind the bar can be the difference between life or death for their business.

Although he does not condone what she did, Pete Williams, of the Punchbowl, New Road, says he can understand why Royal Mail Cart landlady Sue Stoker sold alcohol to youngsters she knew to be underage and coached them on what to do if police approached them – resulting in the Spalding pub losing its licence last month.

It was given 21 days to appeal – which ends today.

Mr Williams said: “I can’t condone what she did but a lot of landlords – myself included – have been in that situation and there should be some sympathy that someone who has been in the trade as long as she has has been forced to do that as a way to survive.

“We are literally tearing our hair out and we don’t know what to do to get people into the pubs.”

He explained that recently his brewery has put the price he pays for beer up by 4.5 per cent, or 12/13p a pint, which he should pass on as a 20p increase to customers.

But Mr Williams said he hasn’t done so yet as he fears it will drive even more customers away.

He said: “I can’t afford to put prices up that much, but then I can’t afford not to either.

“As landlords we often put on a happy front to our customers that our pub is the place to come for a party on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, but I know that although we do get busy at the weekends I am still struggling to pay the bills.

“Basically we are still making the same amount of money we were 14 years ago, but the price of beer has doubled.

“People just haven’t got the money in their pocket so they only go out for a special occasion.

“I don’t want to be the voice of doom and gloom but we have already seen a lot of pubs close but these are difficult times and we are going to see an awful lot more having to shut.”