Comedy favourite Al Murray heads north on his national tour. But the aggressive, in-your-face Pub Landlord of TV fame is quaking at the thought, as Keith Newton reports.
Chains count the cost of greed
WITH one pub closing every 10 days across the North East, the Pub Landlord might soon find himself out of a job.
For all sorts of personal, not to mention professional, reasons, Al Murray hopes the bar room doesn’t disappear for good. "I don’t want to sit at home with a six pack and watch a DVD," he says. But the malaise in the trade isn’t showing any signs of abating.
"It doesn’t come up in my shows yet but I know people who work in that trade are having a really rough time," says Al. His personal opinion? "People got greedy."
He might be right. The national pub chains which concentrated on shareholder dividends now appear to be paying the price.
"The model the pub groups cooked up has relied heavily on squeezing tenants and cutting costs to ratchet up profits and pay off debt," says economics correspondent Sam Fleming. "This looked fine when consumer spending was robust and money was cheap. The trouble is that while debt-laden deals are great fun when business is brisk, they can quickly come unstuck."
Alex Brodie, a former BBC foreign correspondent and now a Cumbrian brewer, believes real ale is holding the pub trade together at the moment. "If any publican wants to put on sales they can just put on a good-quality real ale. It’s not rocket science," he says.
Page 3: Comedy is serious business in North