Tap Running Dry: Black-Owned Pubs In Britain Feeling Economic Pinch

April 8, 2013  |  

Britain is known for its pubs. But in the current English economy, pubs are suffering, especially ones owned by black Britons. And black pub owners want action. They are calling for the creation of an umbrella organization to represent struggling African-Caribbean pubs in Britain, reports the UK publication The Voice.

One of the problems all pubs face in the UK is high taxes. Advocacy group The Campaign For Real Ale recently reported that an average of two pubs are closing in London alone, each week. According to the Britain Beer & Pub Association, Britain’s beer remains among the highest taxed in Europe. Tax on beer has increased by 40 percent since 2008 and now equals more than a third of the cost of a pint. While the British Beer & Pub Association represents more than half of Britain’s pubs, it mainly represents the interests of pub companies, not individual proprietors. And there is no official group representing the needs of African-Caribbean, or even inner city pubs. Such a group, say black pub owners, could help them out immensely.

Because of the taxes may beer drinkers are buying beer from grocers rather than pubs. “In 2011, our regular customers would spend £75 per week on average, including alcohol and food,” said Nti of Gold Coast Bar in south London. “Now, the figure is close to £30, so it’s a huge change in revenue in a relatively short space of time.”

Another hurdle is rent. Rents for pubs are on the rise, along with inflation, which is near 2.8 percent.

Some pub owners like Carol Lindsay of Heritage Inn in Cricklewood are looking for unique ways to lure in customers. In business nearly eight years in a vibrant African Caribbean community, she has put together a diverse package to appeal to a broader audience. “We have karaoke nights and salsa nights, and we’ve come to realise [sic] that we do have a strong traveller community – making up a significant proportion of our customers,” she told The Voice. “People still want to party, but since the economic crisis began in 2007-8, customers have become a lot more selective of how and where they place their money.”

According to The Voice, the first black-owned public houses started in the 1960s, following the arrival of the SS Windrush in 1948 and the subsequent influx of African-Caribbeans into the UK’s industrial heartlands.

Much like in the American South, many black pubs sprung up due to racism; many white proprietors refused to serve black clientele.

George Berry is considered London’s first black publican; he opened The Coach & Horses in Brixton, later renamed the Market House, in 1964, reports The Voice.

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