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Sussex pubs ringing the changes
The recession, rising taxes and cut-price supermarkets have created a perfect storm for pub owners with many struggling to survive.
To thrive in difficult circumstances, some drinking establishments have diversified into farmers’ markets, art galleries and bookshops while others have turned back the clock for inspiration.
Neil Vowles reports on some of the county’s pubs which are standing out from the crowd.
IN the glory days of the local, there was a small pub on every street corner where locals could drink away the worries of another working day for a handful of loose change.
Now a new micropub in Worthing, the town’s first, is looking to revive that tradition.
This week Worthing Borough Council granted planning permission for the applicant Nigel Watson to transform a former health centre into a pub.
Under the agreement for the new establishment, the Anchored in Worthing will not serve food except for the odd bar snack, will have no gaming machines or even a bar.
In another step against the current trend, the pub’s landlord is seeking shorter opening times, not later hours, with the pub closing at 8pm Monday to Saturday and at 3pm on Sunday.
In his application for permission Mr Watson wrote: “A micropub is an establishment far removed from the modern concept of what a pub is.
“Indeed it is almost a step back in time.
“The model for a micropub is small size with low costs and maximum use of space, no keg beers or lagers so no complicated equipment or bar required and interesting choices of locally sourced ales.”
Jerry Marchant from Arun and Adur CAMRA said: “Pubs are closing down all the time in Worthing.
“The Half a Brick and the Clifton are both being converted into flats.
“A lot of pubs are trying very hard.
“Ten and 20 years ago pubs could rely on a regular trade on an evening but now you’ll have pubs doing poker on a Monday night, karaoke on a Tuesday night, something on every night just to drag the punters in.”
Adapt to survive
Pubs are having to adapt to survive in part because their sites have become an increasingly attractive prospect for supermarkets.
Bill Lambert of the Western Sussex CAMRA said that three pubs including The Mitre in Chichester, the Rising Sun in North Bersted, pictured above, and the Bader Arms in Tangmere had all recently been transformed into supermarkets with rumours that the Selsey Tram in Chichester could be the next to go.
Mr Lambert said of the 200 pubs in his area, he estimated that about 10% had closed in recent years.
He said: “The pubs that offer a choice of really good real ales do well.
“But to succeed you do need a population base.
“The problem with landlords under a Pubco is that they tend to go bankrupt within a couple of years, the pub closes down and it loses all the goodwill it has built up.
“I guess supermarkets are targeting pubs because the sites have good vehicle access, a car park, are big buildings and have a community around them.
But you don’t get the sense of community with a supermarket.”
The Lord Nelson
Artists have often turned to the bottom of the bottle to find inspiration and a Brighton pub is continuing that tradition by hosting a display of artwork on their walls.
Graham Boyd, landlord at the Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Street, Brighton, for the last 17 years, has allowed local photographers to display their work for sale in the backroom of the pub.
He said he initially planned to use the room for a rolling monthly art exhibition but when this didn’t work out as planned, he began displaying historical and contemporary images of Brighton on his walls.
He said: “I don’t think you can draw a direct link between the photographs and more money in our tills but it makes the room more attractive and if you’re bored of talking with someone at a function you can always get up and look at the pictures.
“They are definitely a talking point and we have had quite a few enquiries from customers about the pictures.”