Rural pubs face fight to survive

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Owners of rural pubs and hotels in the Donside area are calling for the Scottish government to do more to help their businesses.

Local pubs say they have been hit hard by the low prices of alcohol on offer from supermarkets and this has forced some out of business.

Paul MacLennan, the owner of the Colquhonnie House Hotel in Strathdon, spoke to the Piper about why all rural pubs should feel under threat.

He said: “Living in the rural community is a important way of life for many people but rural pubs are disappearing.

“Pubs pay around 9% of their gross profit on alcohol sales in Business rates compared to Tesco who only pay 2% on their total alcohol sales. How can this be right?

“Only last week I visited my local cash and carry and it is a bad sign when you are told that you can get the majority of the items cheaper in the supermarket.

“Pubs and hotels need to find a unique selling point, but even this does not guarantee success these days.”

Mr Maclennan, who is also the chairman of the Aberdeenshire Central Licensing Forum has called on the Scottish government to act quickly.

“Does the Scottish Government really think that rural communities can keep absorbing these cuts to their way of life?

“Firstly, they are trying to cut our rural post offices and now this. Pubs are currently closing at the rate of 249 per week due to increasing pressures.

“The government are also debating the introduction of Social Responsibility Levy.

“Among the current proposals, councils will be able to tax all on-trade and off-trade venues that stay open after midnight, the rate set will depend on a venue’s rateable value.

“I will be raising all of these issues with local MSP Mr Mike Rumbles, who is visiting on February 7th.”

Only three years ago, Mr Maclennan spoke to the Piper about how positive he was over the future of rural pubs and hotels but it now seems the majority of owners are in agreement about the bleak future facing them if nothing is done.

Darren Gimber, who is the owner of the Kildrummy Inn at Alford, also believes the government is to blame for the closures.

He said: “Between the British and Scottish governments, effectively over the last nine months they have tied a noose round the necks of small businesses and establishments like ours.

“Since the turn of the year with fuel, VAT and general price rises, which are impacting both business owners and our customers, they have tightened the noose further and businesses are choking to death.

“The governments should rightly be doing something to assist the small businesses, be it village shops, pubs, cafes, or rural establishments.

“The supermarkets should pay some of the cost in doing this. It’s becoming a monopolistic situation with these companies, as they have so much power.”

Many owners have seen friends go out of business and Mr Gimber believes it is unlikely the pubs will be bought over.

“It is very sad to see, and very worrying. It’s hard to see some places re-opening.

“In fact, I would go a far to say you’d need your head looking at taking on somewhere at present!”

Moira Gash, chairwoman of the Deeside Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses had said: “All small businesse are facing very tough times ahead.”