Pubs warned that they need to change to survive

TOUGH TRADING ... real ale enthusiast Dave Brazier.
TOUGH TRADING ... real ale enthusiast Dave Brazier.

SOUTH Tyneside pubs need to reinvent themselves to survive in tough economic times, a real ale expert is warning.

The borough’s licensing trade has endured a testing few years.

Some outlets have closed and been demolished, including the Commando, in South Shields Market Place, and the Commercial Hotel, off the town’s Commercial Road.

Others, such as the West Park, in the town’s Stanhope Road, have been earmarked for different uses.

It is being turned into a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Campaigns have also been fought to retain popular pubs, such as the Roadhouse in Hebburn town centre.

Only this week, the Gazette revealed that the Simonside Arms in Newcastle Road, South Shields, has closed its doors while a search was launched for a new licensee.

Against that backdrop, Dave Brazier, regional director for the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), believes diversifying and keeping ahead of the opposition is the best way for pubs to survive.

He said the borough’s licensing trade is performing better now than those in many other parts of the country, but that is due in part to so many pubs having already shut in the 1970s and 1980s due to the impact of the closure of shipyards and coal mines.

Mr Brazier said: “There is a different culture now.

“People now have more ways of using their leisure time than just going to the pub. People in their 20s are just as likely to spend their money on computer games.

“What pubs need now is a unique selling point that gives customers a reason to go there, whether that be by offering good food or real ales. It’s a question of constant re-invention.”

Mr Brazier cites the Maltings, Alum Ale House and the Steamboat, all in South Shields, as being among his favourite haunts.

He added: “Each individual pub has to do what it needs to do to stand out from the rest.”

The Enterprise pub chain has pledged the Simonside Arms will be trading again at the “earliest possible opportunity”.

A spokesman said the company was now seeking a suitable publican to take over at the premises.

Enterprise also recently made available tenancies at the Grey Hen in Temple Park Road, South Shields, and the Clock, in Victoria Road East, Hebburn.

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul