A potential dark cloud on the horizon for publicans is wholesale beer prices. The majority of large brewers have announced increases in the order of 7-9p a pint.
A cost that looks likely to be passed on to the customer, as licensees who can only cope with so much pressure on their margins cannot absorb a 5% increase.
Many sites are now food-led and in 2011 we witnessed pubs overtaking restaurants for the first time as the venue of choice for eating out.
For ‘gastro pubs’ (a term which itself may be on the wane, as Camra dropped it from its Good Pub Guide), the bar was set higher in the last year, when Tom and Beth Kerridge’s The Hand & Flowers, in Marlow, Buckinghamshire became the first UK pub to achieve two Michelin stars. Locally, The Feathers Inn at Hedley on the Hill had another great year, winning ‘Great British Gastro Pub of the Year 2011.
Another area of ‘real’ growth has been the real ale market, where sales continue to increase year-on-year. Operators such as Tony Brookes’ Head of Steam Group have flourished in this area.
The Ouseburn’s Free Trade Inn also scooped awards for its ales and ciders, taking Camra’s Regional Cider Pub of the Year accolade.
Our local breweries have benefited too.
Wylam, Mordue and Allendale among others have expanded their ranges and increased their output.
The Scottish ‘punk’ craft brewer, BrewDog, identified Newcastle as a key city for its burgeoning empire and continues to look for a suitable site.
So let’s raise a glass of the proper stuff to our ‘locals’ and drink to a hopefully prosperous 2012.
:: David Downing, partner, leisure, for and on behalf of Sanderson Weatherall LLP, 0191 269 0151.