FEARS have been raised for the future of Paisley’s pub scene after the shutters came down on a string of popular watering holes.
Boozers have been struggling to make ends meet since the smoking ban was introduced nearly three years ago, and cheap supermarket wine and beer deals have also taken a chunk out of landlords’ takings.
Now the global credit crunch has forced everyone to tighten their belts, meaning even fewer people are splashing cash on nights out,
In Paisley alone The Mill House Bar, George Street; the Stow Brae, off Canal Street; Russells in High Street and the Cellar Bar, Lady Lane are closed either temporarily or for good.
And Hateley’s Bar, which was jointly run by former Rangers player Mark Hateley for just 18 months, has called last orders in Renfrew.
Hateley, 47, blamed the current economic downturn for the closure and said the business had become “unsustainable”.
Paisley man Paul Waterson – who is chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, which is the country’s biggest licensee group – said there are three general reasons pubs are shutting.
These are the credit crunch, cheap supermarket booze deals, and the lasting knock-on effects from the smoking ban which started in March 2006.
Mr Waterson told the Paisley Daily Express: “This is not all down to the credit crunch. Some of these pubs that are closing, if you go back in time a bit, were great pubs.
“Some of them are really famous and have been part of Paisley and Renfrewshire culture. So it is sad.
“These pubs are part of the very fabric of Paisley, but these problems go back a while. A lot of places in Paisley, and Scotland, have never recovered from the smoking ban. There have been 450 closures in Scotland since the ban started, and we are now losing three a week in Scottish terms.
“Irresponsible promotions by supermarkets have also turned people into take-home drinkers. And these twin elements, of people buying cheap alcohol at supermarkets and the smoking ban, have had an effect.”
Mr Waterson said many bar and pub owners did not get the financial boost they expected over Christmas and New Year, giving them poor takings for the start of 2009.
He added: “The Station Bar, now the Stowe Brae, and others were famous pubs at one time. One of the great things about Paisley and other Renfrewshire towns is the independent pubs we have. To have them is a great strength.
“And if you lose the pubs in an area you lose the social centre of a community, because this is where people meet and talk.”
Ian McMahon, who runs the popular Buddies bar in Paisley’s West End, admitted these are tough times for many publicans.
He claimed Paisley has too many pubs and warned new legislation which comes into effect on Tuesday, September 1 – bringing more red tape and expense – is also a factor for many shutters coming down.
Mr McMahon told us: “We are in a transition period at the moment, and with pubs struggling to afford increased energy costs, new licensing act fees to be paid as well as the fear of the government social responsibilities fee, the figure could increase further.
“Another problem for licensees is that suppliers are increasing costs in addition to budget increases.
“And there is also the problem that buying beer in a supermarket is cheaper than water and that is another reason why pubs are going out of business.”
A licensing source told the Paisley Daily Express the pubs mentioned here HAVE shut, but could not confirm the credit crunch is to blame for each closure.
A spokeswoman for Punch Taverns, which owns the Cellar Bar, confirmed it has closed.
She added: “Our priority is to re-open the Cellar Bar as soon as possible. We are actively recruiting a new licensee to run this pub in partnership with us. If any readers are interested they can contact our recruitment team on 0844 848 3279.”
A spokeswoman for Scottish and Newcastle Pub Enterprises (S&NPE), which owns the Stow Brae, said: “The pub has been running under temporary management for about a year. It is now temporarily closed while we look for a permanent tenant.”
She added: “We would like to add our apologies for any inconvenience caused by the pubs temporary closure and we hope to see it open again soon.”
Anyone interested in the pub should log on to www.pub-enterprises.co.uk
Back in October 2007 the Express revealed that some Paisley pubs, including The Club and Langs, both in Moss Street, were calling last orders early because punters were staying at home to booze and save cash.
Yesterday Alan Robertson, The Club’s owner, said: “Since the smoking ban we have went from 16 staff to four, and some nights there is not a soul in the pub.”