Saving Britain’s Pubs with Tom Kerridge – 12 November 2020 – 12/11/2020 – Thursday – BBC Two

Episode 1
Saving Britain’s Pubs with Tom KerridgeSeries 1

For the last twenty years, pubs have been closing down at an alarming rate. Concerned by a crisis in the industry he loves, Tom Kerridge sets out on a mission to revive struggling pubs.

His journey begins at The White Hart in the tiny village of Chilsworthy, Cornwall. This three hundred-year-old freehouse is the only pub in the village and the only community resource left since the village shop, school and church were converted into housing.

Publicans Amy and Ian sold their house three years ago to buy the pub. It’s well supported by the local community and was named CAMRA’s Cornish Pub of the Year 2019. Despite this, Amy and Ian are barely breaking even – a familiar story for landlords of rural pubs across Britain. Local trade isn’t enough to secure the pub’s long-term future, and if it fails, the village would lose its most valued asset.

Tom believes that if Amy and Ian were prepared to open up the bar and dining room to the stunning views across the Tamar Valley, the White Hart would attract customers from further afield while remaining the beating heart of the community. It would involve costly and disruptive building work, but the couple decide to proceed with the plan. Despite the dust and rubble, they are determined to keep the pub open for their loyal regulars.

The second pub Tom wants to help sits on top of a hill on the edge of Stroud, a market town in Gloucestershire. The Prince Albert is a popular meeting place for fans of live music and real ale. The pub’s tenant landlords, Lotte and Miles, are exceptional hosts, and the pub is regularly full so Tom is surprised to hear they are struggling. Is it because they put their customers’ happiness and welfare above profit?

With no food on sale at The Prince Albert, profit must come from the sale of beer. Tom urges Lotte and Miles to raise their beer prices for a trial period, but there’s a problem with this plan. The price they buy their beer is already higher than it would be on the open market because they are subject to what’s known as a ‘beer tie’. This is a centuries-old system under which tenant landlords must buy beer from the company which owns the building and often at inflated prices. If Lotte and Miles raise their prices as Tom suggests, the Prince Albert could become the most expensive pub in Stroud.

If he’s to help Lotte and Miles, Tom needs to get to the bottom of how the beer tie works and whether Lotte and Miles have an alternative route they can take. First he meets Greg Pilley, who explains the economics of the beer tie from the point of view of a brewer. Then he meets Greg Mulholland, who as a former MP, brought legislation through Parliament to give tied tenants an option for breaking free of the beer tie. What Tom learns isn’t encouraging news for Lotte and Miles. A different plan is needed.

Tom travels into London to find a third pub to support. Times have been tough for the capital’s pubs, with an average of 80 closing every year since 2000. Tom arrives in the South London neighbourhood of Nunhead to meet Lana, leaseholder at The Golden Anchor. She is struggling to pay the bills, and unless she can pull in more punters, The Golden Anchor will close. Tom learns more about the pub when he joins a game of the dominos with the regulars.

Back in the 1980s and 90s when Lana first worked here, this was a vibrant meeting place for the Caribbean community. Tom meets historian Kelly Foster to learn more about the important role Jamaican-run pubs have played in South London and how they have changed over time as London has changed. But the Golden Anchor is much the same now as it was when Lana took on the lease.

To work out how to move the Golden Anchor forward, Tom encourages Lana to put a new selection of beers in the bar and to stage an ‘open house’ event, inviting locals to sample her hospitality. For market research, guests are asked to fill in a questionnaire about their perceptions of the pub. From this Tom concludes that to survive, The Golden Anchor needs a more modern, welcoming interior while keeping hold of the warm Caribbean hospitality it’s known for. And Lana needs to fall back in love with the pub she’s looked after for so long.

Tom began his journey thinking that a successful pub depends on the food and drink on offer and a welcoming atmosphere. But, just two months in, he realises it’s the amazing people who run our pubs that make them so loved and cherished by communities. And supporting the efforts of brilliant publicans is what’s most needed for their survival.

About Saving Britain’s Pubs with Tom Kerridge

Award-winning publican Tom Kerridge helps four struggling pubs to turn around their fortunes. When Covid-19 strikes it puts the whole industry, including Tom’s own pubs, in peril.

This show is broadcast on BBC Two, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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