Imperial landlord said supermarkets could put him out of business
IN ALMOST a quarter of a century behind the bar, landlord Tom Kennedy has survived many changes in fortune at The Imperial pub in Northgate Street.
But the latest drinking culture sweeping through Gloucester could force the long-serving boss out of business.
He said the cheap supermarket drink deals and the emergence of a new social hub in The Quays has threatened the future of centrally located pubs.
Like many other pub landlords, Tom's message is loud and clear – use them or lose them, before they become a thing of the past.
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"So much has changed in Gloucester in my time here," he said.
"Once it was good money to run a pub, but now it is a real struggle.
"Rent and rates have gone up and it has been hard to compete with supermarkets and other chain pubs for alcohol prices.
"When we are tied to the brewery, it is tough.
"It can be soul destroying when you see people walking out of Sainsbury's with two cases of beer for £15, half of what we have to pay for it from the brewery.
"Just a few years ago you could walk along Painswick Road from the King Stanley pub in Upton St Leonards into the city and you would pass so many pubs.
"There was the Vauxhall, India House, Checkers and The Musket.
"They have all closed now and been replaced by houses or supermarkets.
"There is only One Eyed Jacks on that route now.
"Plenty more around the city have gone by the wayside or are struggling and it is not hard to see why.
"Life is tough and it is not something I would choose to do again."
Surrounded by venues selling food, Tom has decided against serving meals, but has no option but to shell out almost £700 each month to show live sport just to compete with other bars.
Peter Rust, who runs the Fountain Inn off Westgate Street, has echoed Tom's concerns.
He said pubs were once a rite of passage for youngsters to learn the art of conversation, with traditional landlords keeping a fatherly eye over their customers.
Alan Stephens, a co-ordinator of the Good Beer Guide and a former campaigner for real ale, said like any other businesses, pubs need to move with the times. "There is no doubting the importance of pubs in rural communities as providing a focal point, but in the city it is different," he said. "It is a competitive industry and pubs need to keep up.
"As old ones close, new pubs open up elsewhere.
"They have a natural lifespan and if they don't offer something new or different to encourage drinkers through the door, they will struggle."