Chef and publican Tom Kerridge begins what looks like an importance series on the future of our pubs this evening on BBC2.
Tom Kerridge in the kitchen of one of his pubs, the Hand and Flowers, Marlow
Since the programme was conceived, of course, the closure issue has got more severe. Some venues will not re-open once the pandemic is over.
At the WhiteHart, publicans Amy and Ian are scraping a living from it — a familiar story for landlords of rural pubs across Britain. Tom suggests renovation work to capitalise on the stunning views across the Tamar Valley. It would involve costly and disruptive building work, but the couple decide to proceed with the plan.
The tenant landlords of the Prince Albert, in Stroud, are exceptional hosts and the pub is regularly full, so Tom is surprised to hear they are struggling. With no food on sale, profit must come from the sale of beer, so Tom urges them to raise their beer prices for a trial period.
However, the price they buy their beer is already higher than usual because they are subject to a beer tie — a centuries-old system under which tenant landlords must buy beer from the company which owns the building. If prices are raised, the Prince Albert could become the most expensive pub in Stroud.
Tom then heads to the South London neighbourhood of Nunhead to meet Lana, leaseholder at the Golden Anchor. When Lana first worked here in the 1980s it was a vibrant meeting place for the Caribbean community. The pub hasn’t changed much since then, but customers have dwindled.
Tom encourages Lana to offer a new selection of beers and to stage an ‘open house’ event to pull in more punters. To survive, Tom concludes that the Golden Anchor must modernise without losing the warm Caribbean hospitality it’s known for.