At the end of last week I wrote about the start of a new era at Gloucester CAMRA. In my blog I mentioned some of the positive changes in the 22 years since the sub-branch was formed, but I also said: “But the battle is not won. Pubs continue to close at an alarming rate and good beer is under constant threat.”
And how true this proved to be: the very same week The Citizen reported the imminent closure of The Union due to ‘spiralling debt’.
This is a shame because The Union is a great historic pub. It currently occupies two buildings, one of which was a pub from at least 1680 when it was called The Sword. It is unclear when it became known as The Union: it may have been as early as 1847 or as late as 1920. The name may refer to the Acts of Union with Ireland.
The Union was extended into the adjacent building in 1990, when it was under Whitbread ownership. This building was once the workshop of a tailor called John Pritchard, who was the inspiration behind Beatrix Potter’s book The Tailor of Gloucester. As a consequence the pub was renamed The Tailor’s House for a time before reverting to The Union in around 2003.
Today the pub is owned by Enterprise Inns and it has had its ups and downs over recent years with too many changes of landlord, so it is a shame that it should close now after the current landlords, Richard and Matt, have done a great job in turning it back into a decent pub with real ale and a regular clientele.
And why is it closing down? Sadly it is the all too familiar tale for pubs these days: extortionate business rates and extortionate rent from their pub company landlords.
In the current economic climate, and particularly with the well documented problems that pubs are suffering, this seems like madness: who does it benefit? Clearly not the landlords, but surely the pub company also suffers in the long term as its pubs close down. The city certainly doesn’t benefit from another closed pub and neither do we, the drinking public, who have less choice
And this wasn’t the only bad news this week, I also notice that the York in London Road is up for sale. I can’t speculate about why this is, but can only hope that it continues as a pub because it too has been very good for the past couple of years.
Finally in the bad news stakes, Joy and Peter Rust are due to imminently depart from the Fountain. Again they have done a cracking job over the past few years in making the Fountain one of Gloucester’s top pubs and they will be sorely missed. At least in this case they have what seems to be a worthy successor.
The new landlord is Ben McCullough, who has grown up in the trade and worked at the Fountain previously as bar manager and relief chef up until a year or so ago. He has some interesting ideas, and maintaining the pub’s ale reputation is a core part of his strategy. I look forward to welcoming him.
Hopefully that is enough bad news for now…