Two York pubs could be gone by the end of the week

If we lose it, it is gone forever – the Jubilee pub in York. Photographs: Nick Love
3 Jul 2016 @ 6.23 pm
| Food & drink

This has not been a good week for the York pub scene. Firstly we hear of the closure of the Minster Inn on Marygate for the foreseeable future and now we hear that this coming week the Jubilee is being shut down by the pub company Enterprise Inns.

Whilst the Minster may well open again with new licensees, Enterprise have no such intent regarding The Jubilee on Balfour Street.

They’re intending to ride roughshod over the wishes of local residents and pub regulars and sell the Jubilee to a developer in a venture that will no doubt see them both benefit hugely from the bountiful profits from the six proposed flats.

To local pub campaigners, including myself, involved in trying to save this community asset, this modus operandi is nothing new – big pub companies such as Enterprise Inns, Marton’s and Punch Taverns are doing this throughout the length and breadth of the UK.

Selling pubs for redevelopment as houses or supermarkets is a quick way of boosting profits or in the case of Enterprise trying to pay off huge multi-billion pound debts.

If they get their way though, the local community around The Jubilee will be the poorer, leaving them with just a single pub (The Leeman Rose) on their doorsteps.

I say “if they get their way” – because local campaigners, residents and regulars have formed The Friends of the Jubilee group to fight this unwanted development in the most vociferous of terms.

Deliberately run down

It'll be no entry to the Jubilee soon – unless the city takes action
It’ll be no entry to the Jubilee soon – unless the city takes action

The reason for closing the pub – its lack of viability due to increased local competition from local pubs and cafés – is nothing more than a lazy convenient excuse for redevelopment. It’s also woefully inaccurate and misleading.

There is not a plethora of cafés nearby lining up to take trade off The Jubilee and the nearest pubs in walking distance in town are well established and have been there for some while.

The bald truth is that Enterprise has under-invested in The Jubilee thus deliberately running it down to such an extent that they are trying to make it unviable to serve nefarious self-interest.

There is every reason to believe though that The Jubilee has a viable future – maybe just not under the failed business model that Enterprise operate so unsuccessfully.

The evidence in Enterprise’s case is damning. They made a statutory loss after tax of £65 million last year and are over £2 billion in debt.

Look elsewhere

Thriving… the Volunteer Arms on Watson Street. Photograph © Google Street View
Thriving… the Volunteer Arms on Watson Street. Photograph © Google Street View

You only have to look elsewhere in the Holgate part of the city to see the “unviable” argument disproved. The Volunteer Arms, faced closure in 2011 when the then owners Punch Taverns tried to turn it into housing citing that it was not viable as a public house.

York councillors rejected the housing plans at a planning decision meeting and the pub was purchased by two local businessmen. It is now a thriving and profitable freehouse that serves the local community and is an asset to the area.

These same businessmen turned a pub that Marston’s couldn’t operate successfully into the now thriving freehouse The Slip Inn in the Bishy Rd area of York.

Why not The Jubilee then?

The pub has a lot to offer new owners – a good catchment area of nearly 2,000 residents who are potential new customers if The Jubilee gets a much need makeover; three thriving sports teams and a well-appointed function room that is used for events and functions.

Its close proximity to local playing fields has prompted a serious approach from a local rugby team who want to relocate there and make the pub their headquarters.

This has been welcomed by regulars and shows that the state of a pub now is not indicative of what it could become if in the right hands. We hear that a local businesswoman has already had an approach rejected out of hand.

Robbing future generations

May be saved… the Minster Inn on Marygate. Photograph © Phil Champion on  geograph.org.uk
May be saved… the Minster Inn on Marygate. Photograph © Phil Champion on geograph.org.uk

Be in no doubt that when you lose a pub you lose it forever. You rob future generations of a community resource – all for what: six flats that will have a negligible effect on York’s housing market?

Especially if you take into account that in close proximity the York Central development is looking to provide 1,500 new build dwellings for sale. Won’t those same new York Central residents be looking for a local homely neighbourhood pub such as The Jubilee, to saunter to?

Neighbourhood pubs such as The Jubilee and the only other pub in close proximity The Leeman Rose exist to serve the immediate community. They’re there for a great extended Friday and Saturday blow out but they’re also there for the casual odd pint when a long walk into York city centre isn’t that convenient or appealing.

In October last year York councillors passed official pro-pub policy to positively protect York’s pubs from unwanted closure and/or change of use.

Time to take a stand

Reject pubco avarice, save the Jubilee
Reject pubco avarice, save the Jubilee

There are two major decisions pending which will illustrate just how seriously councillors implement this policy.

Firstly on July 11 there is a decision being made on whether to grant The Jubilee Asset of Community Value (ACV) status. Then there is the decision at a date yet to be set on the planning application.

Enterprise may well have shut the pub earlier than they intended to try and scupper the ACV application – truth is they can’t affect that decision at all, as a dormant pub can still be granted that status.

Be in no doubt, many York residents who value their “locals” will now be looking very closely at how both the ACV and planning application is handled.

This will be the first real test of whether this policy is just fine words or whether our local democratically elected representatives will invoke this pub policy to protect The Jubilee from its unscrupulous owner who has little regard for the local community or York drinkers in general.

We defeated Enterprise not so long ago when they wanted to turn The Punch Bowl into a Tesco supermarket. York councillors granted The Punch Bowl much needed Article 4 Direction protection. We need to do it again with The Jubilee and make sure they reject the planning application.

York needs to send a strong message that it won’t be an accomplice, willing or unwittingly, in supporting the avarice of dysfunctional large pub companies. This is the time to take a stand.