Colin Valentine: Make a pint of getting down to your local pub

Colin Valentine of Camra is looking to boost pubs through a number of initiatives. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Colin Valentine of Camra is looking to boost pubs through a number of initiatives. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Almost a year ago to the day, members of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) agreed at our annual conference that the organisation should focus our efforts on four key campaigns, one of which was “to raise the profile of pub-going and increase the number of people using pubs regularly”.

Across Britain every week, 18 pubs close. Camra had to respond.

To help reverse this trend and achieve the key campaign’s objective, Camra launched four national pubs drives with the first – community pubs month – kicking off this week.

Community pubs month encourages pubs to organise and market a number of events throughout April to entice more trade.

It is important that pubs find out what their communities want by speaking to the people who live in the area.

This campaign gives pubs a national promotion to hook on to and perhaps try marketing initiatives they have been meaning to give a go for some time.

More than 6000 pubs, including 60 in Lothian and Borders, have signed up to the campaign and have been sent free promotional packs to help them market their events.

We trust pubs will experience some increase in trade throughout April and this will result in them continuing with these activities in the future.

Community pubs month will be followed by a pubs and charity campaign in July.

There are thousands of pubs across Britain raising amazing amounts for local and national charities but many are too proud to sing their own praises.

Well, pubs get a rough time in some sections of the media and get blamed for a lot of things, including binge drinking when, in truth, the supermarkets are to blame for selling low-priced alcohol.

Camra feels it is time to let everyone know what important role pubs play in their communities and the great things they do for charities – it’s important pubs enjoy that publicity boost.

We will use July to encourage pubs to put on more charity events during the month and nationally we’ll 
promote this excellent work to help put pubs and pub-going back on the map.

In November, Camra will announce some fun research that will highlight the important role pubs play in our lives.

How many people have met their partner in a pub, celebrated a birthday, wet a baby’s head, attended a wedding, toasted a 40th wedding anniversary and, dare I say it, raised a glass to friends and family who have passed away?

Where would we be commemorating these occasions if the British pub disappeared? Pubs are an important part of British life but if we do not use them and they close, then it is very hard to get them back.

Our final campaign, in January 2014, will look at the important role pubs play in the economy.

Pubs employ many young adults, support plenty of local businesses and pay a lot of tax. The organisation will use the month to highlight the great things pubs do to support our economy.

Although a report this week announced that 42 per cent of pub-goers are visiting the pub less often than they did 12 months ago, it was great to see that 73 per cent of pub-goers and six out of ten of all people feel a well-run community pub is as important to community life as a post office, local shop or community centre.

Pubs are at the heart of many communities and we need to celebrate this.

The scrapping of the beer duty escalator, following a campaign led by Camra, at the recent Budget is the start of a new beginning for British pubs and brewing. This was great news for pubs as it has stopped beer rising by around 10p a pint, but community pubs month is still calling for more and would like to see:

n Local councils include pub protection and promotion policies in their local plans;

n The government building a package of support for community pubs, including reform of planning law to protect viable pubs from change of use;

n Brewers and pub companies backing Camra’s community pubs campaign initiatives throughout the year;

n Consumers celebrating the end of the beer duty escalator in their local throughout April.

The pub is unique to British life and I hope everyone who reads this piece will get down to their local pub this month and raise a toast to a great British institution.

We are lucky to have them so please use them – before they are gone 
forever.

• Edinburgh resident Colin Valentine is the national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale

OUR CHANGING DRINKING HABITS

CAMRA revealed in a report last year that 18 pubs were closing every week in the UK.

High taxes and cheap supermarket prices for alcohol were blamed for the increase in traditional bars going out of business.

The British Beer & Pub Association said that some 117 million fewer pints were drunk in 2012 compared with the same period the year before. Sales of beer in pubs fell by 4.8 per cent, while supermarkets and off-licence sales were also down, by 6.5 per cent.

According to the Lost Pubs Project website, there are 60,000 pubs in the UK today, but the rate of closure is the highest since the 1904 Licensing Act – which gave magistrates the power to refuse licences where they were deemed unnecessary to meet public need.