Why Blackpool’s pubs are thriving and surviving...

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Once the bastions of their community, the archetypal symbol of English culture, depressing figures released this week show there are now more pubs closing across the country each week than ever before.

But here on the Fylde coast we seem to be bucking the trend, with little sign of such an alarming decline evident – certainly nowhere near the 31 licensed premises per week reported to be closing at national level by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

So is Blackpool’s reputation as a place to let your hair down the reason our pubs are thriving and surviving?

For Dave Daly, landlord of The Castle, on Central Drive, and vice-president of publicans’ union Licensees Unite, believes that could account for the success of some town centre hostelries.

“In a holiday resort people come away to drink,” he said.

“People do drink a little bit more on holiday and, as far as community houses go, we don’t have that many per head.

“The Oxford (in Marton) closed but there simply weren’t that many to close in the first place.”

His assertion is backed up by Craig Southall, chairman of Blackpool Pubwatch and licensee at Yates’s, in South Shore.

He said: “Blackpool got hit in the first wave of pub closures a few years ago and we lost some good pubs like The Oxford. I do think the Fylde coast has levelled off and nationally it’s places that aren’t as well run that are failing or suffering.”

And, according to Craig, pubs still serve a social function, rather than just as hotspots for young men and women to get as much down their neck as they can before hitting the resort’s dance floors.

However, he admits suburban pubs have had to shift their business model to adapt to changing habits.

“The frequency of visits have dropped off but there still are cases of community-supported pubs once you get away from the Promenade, and they’ve moved towards being seen as food destinations.”

So, away from the hustle and bustle of the stag and hen party pubs, out in the satellite towns, it’s the promise of a good bit of grub rather than a decent pint which is driving business.

Perhaps not. For Vin Hamer, landlord of The Thatched House, in Poulton, there’s a revolution hitting drinkers’ taste buds which is being catered for more than adequately on our peninsula.

He said: “A lot of markets like lager are falling flat but cask ale is growing and I don’t think there’s a better town for choice or value than Poulton.

“It’s seen as a safe, well-managed environment and we all give good service here.

“People are just looking for something different and the trends in cask ale have changed from traditional old man, flat cap bitter drinkers to a lot more easy drinking real ales. It’s introduced a younger generation and there are more women drinking them, too. It’s an interesting world where there are lots of different flavours and everybody wants to be a part of it.

“Nationally, branded lagers are what they are, there’s no romance with them.”

Russell Cobb, from the Blackpool Fylde and Wyre branch of CAMRA, is in agreement. He said: “Not wanting to blow our own trumpet but our active promotion of real ale is driving up membership.

“More pubs are doing real ale now so it can’t be hurting.”

A planning meeting on Monday saw Blackpool Council reject plans to turn part of Layton Institute into housing and a supermarket.

The club was closed in August 2012 but reopened just a month later after the community rallied round to revive it.

Russell added: “When pubs have been threatened with closure we’ve seen action groups trying to save them, you don’t have to take it lying down.

“It comes down to the customer base and how much they want their pubs to a large extent.”

CAMRA is running a campaign urging pub goers to lobby their MP over the nationwide rate of closure.

For more information visit www.pubsmatter.org.uk.