GOOD cheer is in very short supply in the local pub trade.
Even pubs which were once almost household names with centuries of history behind them have surrendered to the pressures of the downturn and a shift in social habits.
The Swan at Ravensthorpe. The Woolpack at Dewsbury Moor. The Gate at Thornhill Road. The Savile Hotel. The Black Bull at Mirfield. And many more. It’s a long list.
Factors such as recession, population changes, the smoking ban and cut-price drink at supermarkets have come together to force many clubs and pubs out of business.
At The Plough in North Road, Mirfield, Stuart and Kathleen Brennand are preparing to leave next week and the pub will close. Between them, they have been licensees at the pub for more than 10 years.
“It’s due to falling drink sales and rising cost of gas, electricity et cetera,” said Mr Brennand. “And the supermarkets are an absolute killer, undercutting us by so much. We can’t compete.”
When owners Punch Taverns said the pub was being considered for sale it surprised the couple.
Mr Brennand said: “You can’t make plans on that basis. We were heading for bankruptcy. It costs £120 just to open the front door and some nights we were only taking about £70.”
As he and his wife head for retirement, Mr Brennand said they caught the trade at its worst.
“I have enjoyed the job, but it became soul-destroying,” he said. “We tried everything - discos, karaoke, live music. Nothing worked.”
It’s also tough going at The Nelson in Thornhill Lees. Landlady Adele Evans said: “We have seen a slow decline. The area has a large Asian population, there is the smoking ban and we have the supermarkets to contend with.”
She said special events such as theme nights were often a disappointment making licensees reluctant to try new ideas.
“We do still have people who have been coming here for years and hopefully they will continue to do that,” said Mrs Evans.
The Bull’s Head in Ravensthorpe could also be facing closure. After years of struggling to stay afloat and remain at the heart of the community, the pub has been hard hit by complaints over noise from live music events. Kirklees Council was contacted, and the events were banned.
Manager Peter Harkin said the pub would probably shut when the lease runs out next March.
“We’ll keep going until then,” he said. “Those music events brought in a lot of money as well as raising funds for charity. It’s hard to keep pubs going these days. It’s sad. The situation is desperate.”
There is a question mark, too, over the future of the Shepherd’s Boy in Westtown. Its site is for sale with two different agencies.
One of the agencies, Fleurets, said there was permission for the development of apartments. Fleurets also said the land was for sale ‘with or without the pub’.