News came out this week that 'pub operator and independent brewer' Marston's is selling 202 pubs to NewRiver Retail for £90million. The company is disposing of wet-led pubs as they believe people only go to pubs to eat nowadays. Coming from a company that has bought quite a few breweries in the past decade (Jennings, Wychwood, Ringwood) it makes me wonder why they didn't save their money so they could buy a nice profitable restaurant chain instead. Why buy breweries if nobody goes to drink? It may be the case that people no longer go into Marston's pubs to drink but that may be due to the quality of beer they are selling. They seem to have become experts at turning decent beer brands into pale imitations of their former selves with the once superb Ringwood Old Thumper being the latest victim.
This move has a number of implications of course. Firstly, what will happen to these pubs? On the NewRiver Retail website you will see pictures of a Tesco Express and a Co-op. Not exactly a budding pub company. If you are in any doubt then read this. This is a wanton abandonment by Marston's to the local communities that these pubs serve. Secondly, what does it say about the future of Jennings, Wychwood and Ringwood breweries? They are owned by a pub company with significantly fewer outlets and a company that insists people do not go to pubs to drink any more. How long it will it be before these breweries are cast aside?
I grew up on Marston's Pedigree. My first local pub was, and still is, a Marston's pub and when I went to Southampton University I found myself another Marston's pub to frequent. Pedigree was a lovely beer and it is very sad to see the company head in such a direction. Whereas I used to seek out their pubs I now try and avoid them. The sad truth is that people who do go to Marston's pubs are probably going there for something other than what there is to drink. However, for them to say people no longer go to pubs just to drink is just crap.
I hope CAMRA will be campaigning against this move. Local communities do not need any more supermarkets. We are inundated with them. Within a two mile radius of where I live there are at least four Co-ops and three Tesco Express. I do not need these. They all sell the same stuff and one would suffice. My nearest pub is a mile away. Communities need pubs. Every pub should be safeguarded as an 'Asset of Community Value' BY DEFAULT. Any company wanting to change the use of a pub to something else would therefore have to prove that the pub is no longer wanted by their community. How many would be able to prove this? People love pubs even if they are not regular pubgoers. How many people love their local Tesco Express? It is time to stand up for all pubs and the communities they serve.