Developers want to demolish a well-known pub on the outskirts of York and replace it with two large houses.
Punch Partnerships Ltd, which owns around 1,000 pubs across the UK, says the Four Alls Inn beside the A64 near Stockton on the Forest is “surplus to requirements”.
The pub has been there since the 1870s but Punch says it is considered unviable in its current form, and the company’s agents say it would cost £460,000 to make it viable as a destination pub, which they say would be a high-risk investment.
Planning consultants WYG say there are another 11 pubs within three miles, and say the Four Alls has very few local residents, having survived primarily in the past on passing trade.
Between 2016 and 2018, the owners Punch say their alcohol sales through the pub fell by 24%.
Plans submitted to City of York Council propose building two five-bedroom detached houses on the site instead.
Punch says the pub was marketed from April to September, but although three parties expressed interested in taking on the pub, none of those made an offer in the end. One party was interested in creating a care home on the site, and a dozen others wanted to create housing, say the planning documents.
The UK’s largest pub-owning companies have overseen widespread closures in recent years, citing reduced demand, but campaigners have argued that pubs have been hamstrung and damaged by the large companies’ business approach.
The model frequently involves the property owners acting as intermediary wholesalers, demanding that tenants buy beer through them, typically at a high mark-up.
Nick Love, pub protection officer for the York branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, told YorkMix:
The application to demolish the Four Alls represents yet another failure by Punch Taverns in serving their local community.
It’s an indictment that a major pub company cannot make a success of a pub on one of the busiest roads out of York and in an affluent area with not a lot of other pubs in competition.
If they had given their tenants a better chance of success by not forcing them to purchase all their beer at inflated prices from Punch rather than directly from local breweries at reasonable free-of-tie prices, things may well have turned out differently.
The sooner the pubs code, which breaks up this tied model of running pubs, is implemented, the better.
According to The Directory of York Pubs by the late York historian Hugh Murray, the Four Alls was first recorded in 1876.
Its name derives from a medieval belief that the world was divided into four parts: Kings who ruled all, knights who fought for all, priests who prayed for all, and peasants who worked for all.
Citing a viability assessment, the application says: “Trade at the Four Alls is expected to decline due to the challenges faced by wet-led properties situated in isolated locations…
“Whilst the public house appears to be well-located on the A64, there is little local trade and as the main road is extremely busy, it is often difficult for car-bound customers to turn into the property.”
It goes on:
Due to the lack of potential customers in the immediate area, the business needs to provide an attractive enough offering to persuade patrons to travel to the property from further afield.
It is evident from the declining barrelage and fit-out at the property that the business is not achieving this.
Anyone wishing to view or comment on the planning application can read it here.