The rise of the micro pub

James Mansfield who is opening Burnley's first 'micropub' called The Beer Shack.
James Mansfield who is opening Burnley's first 'micropub' called The Beer Shack.

I have to admit I was rather surprised to hear this month there are now 31 pub closures a week in the UK, a figure that has increased by almost 20% in just over 12 months.

Now I fully appreciate there are regional variations but I certainly do not feel there has been such a downturn in such a short period of time. In fact, I am of the opinion there hasn’t been anywhere near one pub in five closing in our region over the last 12 months - but I will stand corrected on that alarming statistic if it can be proved.

It’s certainly not doom and gloom in East Lancashire. Many of the pubs in the region appear to be doing good business most days of the week - and bucking the economic trend.

However, our vision of how we perceive a local watering hole could very well be changing.

I raise this point due to the number of micro pubs that are opening both locally and nationally – they being one room establishments, basically offering real ale, real cider, wine - and conversation. No TV, music, gaming machines or food. No lager or smooth flow – and dare I say it, no children.

One such drinking den has recently opened in Burnley. The Beer Shack, housed in the town centre, is proving a popular venue to discerning ale and cider drinkers. A place where you can go for a quiet drink, a chat and sample many ales you don’t normally see on the bars in the locality.

There were four micro pubs in Lancashire at the last count.

Now that may not appear very many. However, there are two opening in Barrowford and Colne shortly. So Burnley and Pendle will soon have half the micro pubs in Lancashire.

The Barrowford micro is ideally situated in the village. It is a splendid-looking building at the bottom of Pasture Lane. It was the former Barclays Bank, and is next door to the White Bear. I am sure it will prove very popular.

Some have queried it being so close to a popular watering hole. However, it will be a totally different venue, attracting customers seeking an alternative drinking experience to the one offered at the White Bear - and I say that with the greatest of respect.

The second Pendle micro pub will be situated just off Albert Road, close to Pendle Hippodrome. Plans have just been passed for this establishment and will add to the number of decent real ale pubs in and around Colne town centre.

I am sure entrepreneurs see a micro pub as a safe investment, as cask ales and real cider continue to increase in popularity. Overheads and running costs are relatively small - and unlike your normal boozer, they can tick over comfortably during quieter periods in the day.

Let’s face it, fewer people are visiting pubs nowadays. However, the growth in micro pubs proves there is a niche in the market for this type of establishment. They provide products aimed at satisfying a growing demand. Products that offer a wide choice and value for money.

More importantly micro pubs are, in my opinion, aimed at surviving among the competition from larger pubs and pub companies. And I predict continued growth for these small, no frills beery enterprises.

So, after digesting my judgement on micro pubs, do you agree that drinking habits could be changing?

Are we to witness more of these one room drinking establishmentss in East Lancashire? Well, I think if Burnley and Pendle is to be the gauge for these two questions - the answer has to be yes.