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Landlord calls time amid downturn

PUBLISHED: 19:50 01 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:40 03 July 2010

LAST ORDERS: The Star and Garter closed yesterday

LAST ORDERS: The Star and Garter closed yesterday

Dominic Bareham

PUB landlords in Great Yarmouth are facing a bleak future after being hit with a whammy of blows which have made trading conditions difficult.

The Star and Garter, a pub in Hall Quay for over 100 years, has become the latest to call time and closed yesterday.

PUB landlords in Great Yarmouth are facing a bleak future after being hit with a whammy of blows which have made trading conditions difficult.

The Star and Garter, a pub in Hall Quay for over 100 years, has become the latest to call time and closed yesterday. .

But other licensees in the town say they are feeling the pinch from the effects of the smoking ban, as well as increases in alcohol taxes and rent, and the economic downturn.

Ralph Morgan, landlord of the Star and Garter, said he had decided to quit because his rent to Admiral Taverns had increased threefold over the last 10 years from £200 to the present £650 a week.

But Mr Morgan, 53, who runs the pub with his wife Julie, 47, said the smoking ban introduced in July 2007 had also driven away many customers while other customers now preferred to buy cheaper booze from supermarkets and stay at home.

The hike in alcohol taxes introduced by Chancellor Alastair Darling in the March budget increased the price of beer by 4p a pint and spirits by 55p a bottle.

Another problem was that as he rented his pub he had to buy alcohol from the pub company at its prices, rather than having the freedom to buy cheaper booze from supermarkets. He said a lot of investment was needed to modernise the pub, as its sash windows needed updating and work was needed on the electrics.

He said: “It is a real character pub which has been used by offshore people over the years, including many seamen, and it will be really sad to see it go. Hopefully, someone will buy it off the brewery and invest money to do it up.”

Barry Austin, licensee of the St John's Head in North Quay, said while he had not experienced a fall in turnover, he was not expecting an increase in trade over the coming weeks and months.

He said his trade had been affected by smoking ban and tax hikes, but because he owned the pub he could buy cheaper alcohol.

He has owned the pub for the last nine years and said: “I am doing alright, but I am not making a fortune. It is a hard trade now and not like it was years ago, but this pub is my retirement fund.”

The town's Licensed Victuallers Assoication (LVA) will be discussing the situation at a meeting on Tuesday .

Secretary Rod Esherwood said: “In a lot of places it has become unviable to run a pub in that area which is why pubs are closing down. They have to do food, and that affects restaurants' trade.

“At this moment in time there is not a light at the end of the tunnel. It has got to be one of the hardest businesses to survive in and nobody seems to be helping at the moment. It is a very hard situation.”

He expressed regret at the closure of the Star and Garter and said: “It used to be my local. It used to be one of the top pubs in the town. It is very sad to see it decline like that.”

In April, the Mercury reported a lot of pubs were already struggling from the effect of the smoking ban on trade. Four pubs in the town had the shutters down, including The Mitre in George Street and The Crown in Crown Road.

Since then, The Mitre has been converted into Lily's Wine Bar, and The Crown is still trading.


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