Cost of living crisis: South Tyneside pub landlord and brewer calls time after 40 years as energy bills soar

A South Tyneside pub landlord is pleased with his decision to leave the industry after almost 40 years, with the pubs across the UK likely to be forced to close due to massive hikes in utilities bills.

Jess McConnell has been a well-known figure in the borough’s bars for around half a century. Before becoming a landlord he was an entertainer in the pubs and clubs – a job he has now returned to.

His final job as landlord was at The Albion Gin and Ale House, in Walter Street, Jarrow, where a new tenant is now in charge. His first pub was The Queens Hotel, which was opposite Jarrow’s Steelworks when he bought it in 1983. It was renamed The Jarrow Lad.

Other pubs followed, including The Robin Hood, where he opened a micro-brewery making ales including Rivet Catcher.

Jess McConnell left the pub game three months ago and is pleased with his decision.

Jess, 70, was brought up on the Scotch Estate and is Jarrow through-and-through. He left the Albion in May, partly for personal reasons, but the economic landscape has also been a factor.

The hospitality industry was particularly badly hit by Covid-19 and now, with energy costs expected to soar by as much as 300%, bar and brewery bosses are warning the cost of living crisis could cause “real and serious irreversible” damage to the industry.

Jess feels he has made his departure at the right time.

He said: “Luckily for me I’m out of it now. I came out three months ago after 40 years in the pub game.

“The financial crisis that we’re going into now is something that I have never experienced. It’s never been so bad.

“I’m happy with the decision I’ve made. I’ve obviously enjoyed being in the pub game, but it was so much easier when I went in 40 years ago. The shipyards were still booming, so were the steelworks.

“The pubs have got to compete with so much more now – including Netflix. It’s endless what they’ve got to compete with now.”

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Jess is not disappearing. In fact he will still be very visible as he is returning to the stage.

He explained: “I’ve started doing entertainment gigs. Before I went into the pub trade I was a full-time entertainer. I was in a comedy duo, The Jarrow Lads. So now I’m doing a solo show.”