A little group is hoping to play its part in “saving” Congleton’s pubs as energy costs soar.
Twelve members of the Macclesfield and East Cheshire Camra group (Campaign For Real Ale), past and present, met up at The Olde Kings Arms to discuss what they could do to help landlords as energy costs soar.
Paul Bona, who owns the alehouse on High Street, was surprised to see a meeting take place between customers on how to help pubs – but might need their help, as he predicted his electricity bill could end up costing as £41,600 a year.
“There’s a little group that got together about saving pubs. They had a meeting here about a week ago, 12 guys and girls concerned about the pub situation,” he told the Chronicle.
“They had a meeting here and they discussed ways to encourage people back into the town and what the pubs can do – I just joined in the conversation when they asked what my thoughts were.”
Mr Bona said: “We are all concerned about the situation. Our electricity has already gone up £100 a week and it’s going to keep going up. It’s £1,000 a month at the moment.” The pub is open seven days a week.
The 64-year-old added: “At the end of September, I’m expecting our bill to double. The cost of electricity in here will be in the region of £700 to £800 a week.”
Despite this Mr Bona, who has owned the pub for five years, said that he “wasn’t worried about closing” and that he intended to leave prices as they are “for as long as possible” because it had been “a winning formula” for him and he was not looking to change that.
Macclesfield and East Cheshire Camra chair Dave Gittins, who lives in Congleton, explained that the footfall in bars was not where it used to be pre-pandemic, and suggested that pubs might need to hold events such as quiz nights, or live music to encourage people in.
“God yes! We’re concerned about the pubs,” he told the Chronicle. “We were concerned about pubs before all this because they aren’t seeing the number of customers they were before covid.
“I went out on a Tuesday night with a friend, and we struggled to find a pub open. It took about four pubs until we found one that was open, and it’s down to the footfall not being there any more.
“The only way to support pubs is by going there and if people’s budgets are tighter then there has to be something there to attract them to it.”
Mr Gittins’s group was involved in devising the Congleton Ale Trail, which was launched by the town council to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the Congleton’s charter, and to encourage residents into the pubs.
He told the Chronicle that there was no reason that the ale trail, which consisted of 29 pubs before the Young Pretender on Lawton Street announced its closure last month, should not be permanent.
“In the charter year 751 it will still be a valid trail,” he added.
In Timbersbrook the much-anticipated reopening of the Coach and Horses takes place tomorrow (Friday).
Local man Cedric Stonex bought the pub after Robinsons brewery put the popular watering hole up for sale in 2020, following its closure during the pandemic.
Mr Stonex said: “While the rising prices of energy and transport will affect us, we are confident that we can offer fair prices to our customers by keeping our offering concise and by working very closely with local suppliers. We will never compromise on quality to save a few pennies. A few logs on the fire won’t hurt either.”
There have been suggestions that pubs could form part of a chain of “warm banks”, to help people who cannot afford to heat their homes.
Last week the town council turned its thoughts to ways it can support residents as the temperatures begin to drop.
Jackie McArthur, the town centre manager, said: “Last week the town council hosted a virtual meeting with a number of community groups to start considering practical ways to help support residents through this winter.
“Support for businesses and residents with heating bills will require national solutions and is beyond what a town council can do.
“Increases on this scale are not easily budgeted for, which we are very aware of with the costs of heating the town hall.”
She added: “Now that a new prime minister has been named, we will hopefully start to learn about the national plan and support packages that will be available to sustain businesses and households.”