ALE November 1998 No. 292

On The Circuit

J.D. Wetherspoon, St. Andrew's Street (Cambridge) and Community Pubs

CAMRA welcomes Tim Martin's ethos of quiet, family outlets with food and real ale. He deserves his success in an area neglected by the big pub & brewery groups. Of itself, the Wetherspoon's redevelopment of part of the former Regal cinema is therefore welcomed.

We are less sure about the Bass development of an All Bar One bar on the former Belfast Linen site, opened in September [reviewed in Cambridge Pub News]. We are even less sure about Scottish Courage's plans for a second Rat & Parrot around the corner in Downing Street, in the former Cambridge Building Society offices.

Foodie

These are all part of foodie, "female-friendly" chains and there is certainly a place for such outlets. A 1997 survey showed that 36% of adults go to a pub at least once per week, up 1% on the previous year. The rise seems to be due to female pub goers. [Source: Drink Pocket Book 1999, NTC Publications]

Progress?

It's interesting that Wetherspoon's seem to be waiting for the All Bar One to become established before getting on with the Regal - there's no sign of progress as of late October. January 12th has been quoted as an opening date. Similarly there's no sign of work at the Rat & Parrot though they applied for an alcohol licence back in the summer.

Greene King's development of the Cambridge Rattle & Hum [see Cambridge Pub News] appears to be an attempt to get in on the action, being a similar venue and approximately half way from the St Andrew's Street area to the Henry's/first Rat & Parrot area at Quayside.

Consumers

As the consumer campaigning organisation for the pubs sector, we need to consider the overall effect upon consumers in South Cambridgeshire. CAMRA and local licensees know that there is no slack in the market, no significant suppressed demand. The custom for the Regal and the other new outlets will be at the expense of other pubs, cafes and restaurants.

Beer Barns

One ordinary-sized new pub would have minimal impact. However several beer barns, especially in the St Andrew's Street area so close to the Hogshead, will be a magnet for young people from all over South Cambs. on Friday and Saturday nights. Whatever the chains may say about their target markets, they'll make their money from young people swilling heavily marketed fizzy draught and bottled beer on these nights.

Public order

This development of a drinking circuit is now a familiar phenomenon in the U.K.: many cities have experienced this at the hands of the big pub chains and there are considerable public order implications. Licensing authorities seem unwilling to combat this menace and keep approving more and more licences [see Back to Basics]. It's fortunate in this case that the Police Station is nearby!

Communities

We fear a serious loss of trade in village and suburban pubs: many rely on Friday and Saturday night trade to survive.

The fear is that this will be the last straw for some struggling community pubs, resulting in less choice for the consumer and cultural deprivation, just like the loss of libraries, Post Offices and local shops.


Follow-up: Cambridge Drinking Circuit 1998-2001.

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