Fears of pub crisis

FEARS are growing today that Suffolk is facing a pub closure crisis after it emerged more than 60 venues in the county are on the market.

FEARS are growing today that Suffolk is facing a pub closure crisis after it emerged more than 60 venues in the county are on the market.

In recent weeks several pubs in the Ipswich area have been advertised for potential landlords and The Royal Oak on Felixstowe Road has been boarded up following closure.

It is feared more could follow with the reason for poor trade being put down to the nationwide smoking ban which came into effect last summer.

There are currently 55 pubs up for lease across the county while eight are available to buy.

Shaun de Silva, Ipswich's Pubwatch chief and landlord of the Brewers Arms in Orford Street, predicted last April that as many as 20 pubs in Ipswich could close within two years of the smoking ban being introduced.

Today he said many management teams are struggling and deciding to cut their losses.

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He added: “They can't make any money. After the smoking ban came in trade went down.

“They can't pay bills and have to relinquish the tenancy. It is happening a lot over Ipswich.

“The smoking ban has decimated takings, in some cases by 20 per cent, which is people's wages.

“Pubs were the hub of the community and life revolved around them but I would suggest times have changed.

“It is now so easy to get alcohol in supermarkets for half the price we can.

“People are having parties around their houses where they can smoke in comfort.

“Things don't look very rosy at this present time as far as the pub industry is concerned.”

Pub giants Punch Taverns have a total of 26 pubs on the market in Suffolk at the moment, with Greene King advertising 21, Admiral Taverns offering 13 and Enterprise Inns displaying three.

In a statement released last Wednesday Punch Taverns revealed it had experienced a tough festive period.

Are you a publican struggling to make ends meet or are you concerned at the prospect of losing your local pub? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Admiral Taverns - 12 to let, 1 to buy

Greene King - 21 to let

Punch Taverns - 19 “retailer agreement” pubs available, seven “business transfer” pubs available

Enterprise Inns - three to let

A spokeswoman for Punch Taverns said: “We believe in the long term the smoking ban will have a positive impact on our industry as non smokers and families return to pubs as part of their leisure activity.

“The onus is on the publicans and pub companies to make their businesses welcoming, with a wide selection of products available, impeccable retail standards and first class customer service.

“From very early on we recognised that in terms of managing and preparing for the smoking ban no action was not an option.

“This was the message delivered repeatedly to retailers in our leased and managed house estates.”

The spokeswoman said when the smoking ban was announced tens of millions of pounds went into supporting their pubs.

She added: “However, we are keen to stress that effective management of the smoking ban isn't just about putting up smoking shelters or opening up beer gardens.

“It involves making tangible improvements to every part of a pub business - its look, feel, ambience, product range, food and customer service.”