News that some of London’s oldest Fleet Street pubs could face closure are not overly surprising, as more and more workers shun office life and choose to work from home. Throughout London, pubs that have been going hundreds of years say it is barely worth opening at lunchtime.
In my own local area, pubs and restaurant managers say they have felt a small uptake in trade since the removal of Plan B restrictions. Though these rules didn’t apply to hospitality venues themselves, they took away people’s confidence to go out. This confidence seems to be returning, though whether anyone will have the money to venture out once the effect of increased energy bills kicks in is anyone’s guess.
Those workers travelling in to their London offices on certain days have made Thursdays evenings the new popular time to grab a pint. The pubs are desperate to find new ways to bring in customers and many are now having to focus on an evening trade that was never a priority before. It is strangely reminiscent of my time in Belgium, where Place de Luxembourg near the European Parliament buildings was so busy, one wondered how anyone made it to work at all on a Friday. In truth, many didn’t!
The sad tales are backed by numbers using public transport. Transport for London said commuter numbers were still at half normal levels at the end of January.
Like the energy crisis, this is a problem of the government’s own making. Closing fossil fuel power stations before alternative, cleaner technology is in place was always going to create problems. Similarly, allowing so many to eliminate the stress of travelling to work was bound to affect their life choices.
We have put up with knee-jerk reactive government measures for too long. What is needed is reasoned, pro-active planning – and far less of it. Allowing the free market alone would not have caused the problems above. The country would still be using its last reserves of coal. Right now, any coal that is mined has to be exported, with an increased carbon footprint, making no sense at all.
There may well have been a shift towards home working, as technology makes it increasingly easy to keep in touch, but this would have been a more gradual change and would have allowed hospitality businesses the time to adapt.
There is but one thing the government can do to help the market. Butt out!
Martin Day - Party Secretary