Brew News / Features

Pub takes unique measure to avoid tax hikes

Considering the fact that it was only the beer duty that was cut in George Osbourne’s Budget, ailing pubs across the country aren’t quite out of sh*t creek. The cider market is booming and interest in wine is high as ever, so the beloved pint isn’t the only thing stretching the proverbial hole in landlords’ pockets.

Despite the well-documented struggle of the British pub industry, that’s seen over 6,000 pubs close in the past four years, the Russia Times (RT) broadcast a great little piece (see below) about a Cumbria local’s innovative way around the tax hikes. The Old Crowne Pub in Hasket Newmarket, described by a patron as a “comfy old slipper”, is the first co-operatively owned boozer in the country.

In this small town located hundreds of miles away from the Capital, 145 residents united to buy the site 10 years ago. This is amounts to 6% of the area’s population, showing the overwhelming support to keep the traditional English pub up-and-running. With a “mixture of good business sense and strong community spirit”, it’s “avoided the slide of the beer duty escalator”, meaning that it can only go on to boom even further.

Under this unique business model, the pub is profitable, but the investors didn’t have this in mind when they pulled together to buy the place in 2003. Julian Ross, leader of the customers’ initial bid, says:

“People say they don’t care about making a return on their investment. They want to preserve something that is important for the community,”

“This is a cosy, friendly pub, which you can go into whether you’re wearing your wellies, walking boots, or a suit, and you won’t come out without speaking to someone,” he added.

The Campaign For Real Ale even showed their support by putting the rural waterhole in their Good Beer Guide. The Guide’s editor, Roger Protz noted that in a country with a growing amount of “pub chains and global breweries” pubs “are losing their community role”.

“So I welcome the effort to keep this classic pub rooted in its community”.

The pub is believed to be the first co-operatively owned pub in Britain, and it shows that community support can trump the burden of economic austerity. As the Guardian reported, the Old Crowne has set a trend for other locals across the country. Other pubs in Cumbria in particular have employed the scheme, such as the Butcher’s Arms in Crosby Ravensworth and the Fox and Hounds in Ennerdale Bridge. It’s even swept into a pub in Hampshire. 

With the help of some pretty nifty business acumen, spiralling drinks tax need not be the end of the traditional English pub, and this is the rare ray of light in an otherwise tough battle.

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