Free thinking could revive licensed trade
At a time of year when many of us are vowing, via New Year resolutions, to cut down on the booze, making a pledge to make more use of the local pub during 2013 might seem bizarre.
But for those people who care about their communities, it might not be such a silly resolution to make – so long as you keep the alcohol intake down to reasonable levels, of course.
Because spending money in what is, for many villages, the heart of the community, has got to be a good thing if those communities are to thrive. The good news, after figures showed a record number of pubs closed last year, is that better times might be ahead in 2013. As the Western Daily Press reports today, the closure of a number of brewery-tied pubs has meant that more than ever are being re-opened as free houses.
There is, of course, nothing at all wrong with good pubs owned by breweries. We are lucky, here in the West Country, to have a number of locally-owned breweries, rooted in their communities, that have chains of pubs which are well-established in the villages they serve and well supported.
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But there is much to be said, too, for the free house, especially when it opens in place of a chain pub that was, in the words of Camra officer Rod Davies, being run as a "cash earning property."
When premises like that, which are soon seen through by customers and rejected, are taken over by enthusiastic owners with a better feel for the kind of operation that suits the location, they can thrive – and the community benefits as a result.
And if it is true that supporting the local pub helps to hold a community together the same can also be said of the local shop, which is also under threat. It is not too late to make a New Year resolution.
But while many of the more traditional pledges made on New Year's Eve will have already crashed and burned, from dieting to giving up smoking, making more use of the local pub and the local shop are infinitely easier to keep.
They may not help improve your health or reduce your waistline but they will boost the prospects for the community through the year ahead.
And if you are suitably impressed with Stephen Glover's thinking in his Saturday essay on this page, you might be further encouraged to exercise your drinking arm.