CHESTER publicans are facing a bleak future unless breweries and politicians take urgent action to stem the tide of closing pubs.
High taxes, cheap supermarket booze and falling trade have left many landlords struggling with one describing the current state of the pub trade as ‘catastrophic’.
The Flookersbrook in Hoole and the Railway Inn, Brook Street, were once bustling pubs but both have shut their doors.
Uncertainty hangs over the future of a number of other pubs across the city which are up for sale or lease, including The Highfield in Blacon and the City Arms in Saltney.
Landlord Frank Marnell, of Chester Licensed Victuallers Association, fears many more pubs will be forced to call time unless the situation improves.
He said: “To be honest, everybody is in the same boat and we have already lost four pubs this year.
“It is catastrophic at the moment; nobody seems to be helping us and nobody wants to know until it’s too late.”
Mr Marnell, who runs the Watergate Inn, said rising beer tax, pub companies charging above-market prices and competition from supermarkets meant many landlords were unable to balance the books.
He also believes customers need to support their local pubs or else risk losing them forever.
“If you can’t make ends meet then you can’t make ends meet and that’s that,” he said.
“For whatever reason – and you can give plenty – people who said they would support their local pub have not done it.
“What I can’t quite understand is that there are still pubs opening up thinking they can make a profit.
“They are taking customers from the existing pubs and they might do okay for a while but eventually they will end up in the same boat.”
The Home Guard Social Club in Canal Street and The Gallery Bar and Kitchen on Eastgate Row North have also closed in the past few months.
Some former pubs have been converted with The Beehive in Hoole Road now an entertainment store and The Gamekeeper in Upton being turned into an Indian restaurant.
Nationally, the Campaign for Real Ale said 18 pubs a week were closing in the UK and the British Beer and Pub Association said beer duty had increase by more than 40 per cent since March, 2008.
Both organisations have urged the Chancellor George Osborne to freeze or cut beer tax in next month’s budget.
Ministers said plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol would help the pub trade.
But Mr Marnell, who is assistant secretary for National Pubwatch, doubts whether either measure would make any difference.
He said: “Even if beer tax does come down, are the breweries and pub companies going to pass the on?
“I doubt very much whether they would and I am not convinced minimum pricing will come in; they have it in Scotland and it has caused problems there already.
“At the present moment I would say there are a larger influx of pubs shutting than last year.
“The future does not look very bright.”
A spokesman for Enterprise Inns, the owners of the Flookersbrook, said the pub is closed while the company actively recruit for a new landlord who can help take the business forward.
Minor works and repairs will also be carried out in this time.