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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

How much do you want your pub to stay open?

Good news from the BBPA: more than a hundred MPs have signed an early day motion supporting the 'axe the beer tax - save the pub' campaign, launched by CAMRA and the BBPA last year and covered by me quite vociferously at the time.

This signals a growing widespread view that the plan to continue to tax the living daylights out of beer at a time when pretty much every other sector of the economy is receiving financial aid is simply not acceptable.

A press release from the BBPA yesterday also states proudly that 10,000 people have written to their MP about the issue, and 20,000 have signed the online petition and joined the Facebook group.


This pretty lady has shown her support.  Why haven't you?
Nuts and Zoo fixture Jennifer Ellison at the campaign launch

Well great.

To put that 20,000 into context, the Top Gear Appreciation Group has 238,907 members.  The group 'If 500,000 join this group I will change my middle name to Facebook' has 172,371 members.

If 100 out of 646 MPs have expressed support, that means 15% of all MPs have done something. If every single person who signed up so far was a member of CAMRA (they're not) then that would still mean that only 20% of CAMRA members have signed up.  Fifteen million people go to the pub at least once a week.  That means 0.13% of pub goers have signed up.

I'm pleased the campaign has made a dent on public consciousness, but really this isn't good enough.  A quick google search reveals that coverage of the campaign consists almost entirely of blogs and trade press sites, with the occasional hit from the Wigan Weekly Post or Huddersfield Examiner.  As far as I can see the only national paper to have ever mentioned it is the Daily Star, and in that piece Jen's breasts (above) loomed more largely than anything else.

Do we want to save our pubs or not?  The fact that one in six MPs have signed the early day motion shows the will is there to get something done.  The fact that probably a significantly smaller proportion of CAMRA members have signalled their support is deeply disturbing.  

I'm not picking on CAMRA (again) - it's just that of all the people who claim to care about the preservation of their local, this group is supposedly the epicentre.  And CAMRA co-organised the campaign.  Every member gets regular updates from the organisation - there's no excuse for them not to know about it.  

CAMRA itself represents only a minority of cask ale lovers - an estimated 7 million regular cask ale drinkers versus CAMRA's membership of 97,000.  You can only get cask ale in pubs. Do 6.98 million cask ale drinkers - 99.7% of them - not give a shit that their pubs might close, thereby denying them the chance to drink cask ale?

Beer sales are at their lowest for seven years.  They fell by 10% in the last quarter of last year alone.  And beer drinkers - beer fans, beer aficionados - seemingly couldn't give a fuck. 

If you know someone who likes going to the pub and enjoys drinking beer, get them to sign up. Let's see if we can get more people motivated to try to save the pub with no more than a simple mouse click than there are members of 'If it's not from Yorkshire it's shite' (76,922 members). On the other hand, that is a group I need to join.  But then, that's so easy to do.



7 comments:

ATJ said...

Do these Facebook campaigns ever get anything done, or are they just a cyber version of signing some high street petition which makes you feel better and socially committed? The best way to save the pub is visit it and as often as you can afford — then pass on the message that they are not just about boozing but also about talking to people, being part of a community of likeminded souls, swapping gossip or just shutting the door against a harsh world (didn’t pubs become more busier in the recent weather?). Mind you, if people are too busy with their mobile phone/Ipod/Twitter/ Facebook/ whatever then maybe the social interaction that is needed in the pub to make it work can be daunting to some people — and perhaps that is another reason they are losing out.

Pete said...

Hmm... suppose I overemphasised the Facebook aspect. I was more aiming to get at the overall lack of response. It takes no effort, and the response from MPs shows it does do something. But if no-one else can be arsed, MPs are likely to think the issue isn't that important

ATJ said...

What about a Big Brother-style reality show for pubs? People seem to get energised about that sort of thing. Put publicans in a pub, set them tasks, film them, getting that Geordie sounding bloke to provide the commentary and the last one there stays open. The rest all close. The long slow death of the pub served out in the public eye — no different from celebrities’ careers going down the pan in front of the public’s eyes.

Gabrielle said...

Following on from ATJ's comment about Facebook groups - yes, mostly they're just a 'join my gang' thang and not much happens.

We're doing something constructive with our DRINK BEER AND CARRY ON group. When you upload a photo of yourself in a boozer, wearing a DB&CO t-shirt, you get another one free. We're trying to get as many pictures as possible of punters enjoying a pint - encouraging the use of the pub.

We should all join campaigns, but in the end we have to get down the pub and encourage others to do so too.

Mario (Brewed for Thought) said...

m shocked to hear beer sales are down in England. Here in the US they are still on the rise despite increased prices across the board.

Pete, I agree with you on the cask issue. I love my cask ale, and while I may be seeing less hours, lower wages at work, I still find time to drink a pint. Losing a job is one thing, you can always find another, but losing your favorite watering hole could be devastating.

Bryce said...

"You can only get cask ale in pubs. Do 6.98 million cask ale drinkers - 99.7% of them - not give a shit that their pubs might close, thereby denying them the chance to drink cask ale?"

As someone who lives a two hour drive from the nearest cask of beer I can tell you it's a drag. Some people don't know what they've got until it's gone.

Jeff Pickthall said...

The only soap I watch is Coronation Street. I would like to see a Rovers Return-to-close storyline - that really would raise awareness of what's going on. Same with Eastenders and Emmerdale.