Monday 26 October 2020

Clubs Suffer Too

We read daily in newspapers and social media about the way the Licensed Trade is suffering under the restrictions that have been in place, in various ways and degrees of hardship, since the March lockdown.  Some geographical areas have felt the yoke of restriction much more than others, in both application and length of sentence. In the drive to be seen to do something - anything - the Government has, with regular monotony, picked the hospitality trade for particular Draconian attention, despite their valiant attempts, not only to go along with instructions, but to do so openly and embrace and improve on whatever is called for. Despite this, it could be reasonably, indeed obviously, argued that it has done so to little persuasive avail.

I will not chronicle here the damage done, not only to businesses, but lives, careers and sanity. That is all too obvious from social media and broader press coverage. Depending on your own point of view, the trade is either a potential Typhoid Mary, or a sacrificial lamb. I won't be running a poll to find out though. Suffice it to say the trade has been fighting a losing battle.

In the midst of all the rightful angst about the way our pubs are suffering in this pandemic, I was brought up sharp by a letter, hand delivered, from my local Cricket Club, of which I am a member.  While I won't give away figures too much in case they are confidential to members only, I will say that in the case of my club, the loss of income since March is now in six figures, leading to a potential loss of approximately half that amount by April 2021. If I may quote the Chairman "That is a disturbing figure in anyone's book and I urge you to take a second to let that figure sink in." 

The income has not only been lost through gate money - a small part -  but through the ban on events such as wedding receptions, birthday parties, christenings, funerals etc. Annual events such as fireworks displays, beer festivals and more have had to be cancelled.  Bar takings have been decimated.  I could go on, but it is a grim picture and one that for the foreseeable future doesn't look like improving. Of course the club is looking at a number of unpleasant but necessary measures to overcome this issue, but while not detailing these here, it is certainly a job I don't envy.

As a local CAMRA Chairman, I am always being reminded by my Clubs Officer to think about and include Social Clubs in our campaigning, which I do try and do.  Social Clubs not only provide an outlet for a lot of beer to be sold, but between them have many millions of members.  They provide a local and personal service too as social clubs, whether for cricket, bowls, brass bands or whatever as they are always membership run.  People know and depend on each other, not only for common interest, but much as in pubs, for places to meet friends and stave off loneliness. Many also sell cask beer and indeed, sometimes, are the only outlet for it in some areas. In other places, they have taken the place of closed pubs as regular places to go for a drink and meet people.

Have a think about the plight of social clubs too, when we think about the problems of pubs.  Maybe think of joining one to support it. They face the same issues and also need our support in these difficult times.

I also know there are views that pubs should be shut as we all breathe the same (possibly contaminated) air. Not sure how scientific that is, given the number of times a pub - or club - door opens and shuts and that it only takes an open window to completely change the air in a room every 15 minutes - I know. I looked it up.

Clubs are great places too to observe surviving beer oddities. I mentioned this here.  Oh and I used to be a member of the Dyers and Polishers Social Club in Middleton, many years ago. It is closed now. Bonus point if you can explain dyeing and polishing.

"Function rooms" by LoopZilla is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


Cooking Lager said...

Cricket club eh?
had you down as more a wheeltappers and shunters kinda fella.

Clubland has been dying for years. It predates the rona. Many have been slow to react to changes in their communities and have seen the membership decline. You can't rely on members roping their kids in when people don't live in the same locale as their parents. The community changes. Many tried holding back the tide of modernity (female membership of working mans clubs or even god forbid letting women on the committee) for far too long and instead became known as old people places and outdated.

Those that survive I'm sure are nice places. I've been in a few nice clubs. There is a much more vibe of decline, low membership, running down funds than many make out. Breweries used to tie them with interest free loans years ago. Not sure if they still do.

Tandleman said...

Oh you are right in many ways. Tied loans are still all too common, though most if they are doing well, buy them out.

Our club was doing quite nicely though. Membership up 20% and well attended social events and matches.

The along came government restrictions.

Tandleman said...


I refer you to my membership of the Dyers and Polishers! Man of the people me.

Phil said...

15 minutes is a long time to leave a window open in this weather! I think we should all be much more concerned about ventilation - and air circulation - than about surfaces & hand-washing. Whether we should be *very* concerned about ventilation - enough so in my case to have avoided the inside of a pub ever since they re-opened - is another question.

Tandleman said...

Don't forget the continual opening and closing of doors in addition, as well as any air conditioning, comfort cooling or air scrubbing.

Britain Beermat said...

Good piece. I coach at my local cricket club and they've raised funds by launching a virtual real ale club!
However I know lots are really struggling for all the above reasons mentioned by your good self

Cooking Lager said...

I suspect sports clubs might have a natural recruitment cycle so long as new residents to the area maintain an interest in the sport. So new people seek admission. Without that, why would new residents seek to check out a local social club?

Many years ago, my Grandad told me that in the 60s and 70s in the working men’s club of which he was a member, most nights were a bar and pool/darts/cards. Friday was men's entertainment of blue comics and strippers and Saturday was family friendly turns where you could bring the wife into the concert room but not either of the bars. You put a suit on, on a Saturday night. He thought Saturday telly had killed that as the turns were better on telly. My sister and then girlfriend found this quite funny in a dated kind of way. I didn’t realise it then, but committee organised groups tend to want to hold on to the past rather than accept either the present or future. My sister & girlfriend being allowed in with us was considered relatively new thing by the old timers.

Further to this, and I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way. But I also figured that many working men’s clubs lacked adequate oversight. The committee was often older retired gents from manual occupations that had little idea of accounts and were easily robbed blind by the stewards they appointed. There were few members of a professional background and when lets say a retired accountant was convinced to join the committee as a treasurer or some sort of title that often resulted in discrepancies being found and stewards leaving under a cloud. They were not always tightly controlled financially.

RedNev said...

I am a social member of the Park Golf Club in Southport, not for the golf (I tried playing a couple of times many years ago - I was irredeemably useless), but because until lockdown, the Bothy Folk Club met weekly in their function room. I decided years ago I might as well be a social member, partly because the beer is slightly cheaper to members, but mainly to show some commitment to the venue.

Obviously the folk club cannot meet at present, but I saw the club open only a few times after lockdown and before Tier 3 restrictions were imposed upon Merseyside. I hope the club survives, but I doubt reopening can be taken for granted.

Anonymous said...

Almost unbelievably, most people still haven't got it. Sadly nearly all of our clubs and pubs are going to go broke over the coming months. You cannot run a hospitality business in a climate of uncertainty and worse still intentionally heavy handed government measures. Those that still think that any of what's going on is about fighting a virus, simply haven't been paying attention.

Cooking Lager said...

Yeh Anon,
But as Nev points pout, if that means fewer venues doing folk music? It's an ill wind that blows no good.

Anonymous said...

Yes, always look for the silver lining.

retiredmartin said...

A good read, and point well made.

There's a fair number of clubs in the Beer Guide, particularly in the North West, and I probably visit half a dozen new entries each year.

I visited a sport club bar today, near Norwich. There were two other visitors to a room that could have held a hundred. And there's the rub. Some are incredibly busy (the famed Idle club sticks in the mind), but in many I've been nearly the only visitor, despite decent beer kept well by an enthusiastic stewards. Perhaps they're only busy when sport is on.

Unknown said...

Thanks to Bozo, club stewards and landlords will be getting another long rest, that could well become permanent for some. It's hard not to be gloomy and even final solution in regard to folk singers, is not really enough to soften the lockdown blow.