Good to see the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea snapping at the heels of developers by introducing policies that all local authorities across London should adopt in protecting our heritage pubs from the same fate of closure suffered by real ale gems like the Crocker’s Folly in Maida Vale or the Hope and Anchor in Hammersmith.
In Lambeth the realities of this decline are yet to be brought home to local communities in the same way as our neighbours in Wandsworth, so the event at City Hall hosted by the Campaign for Real Ale was an evening of enlightenment.
Introduced by Tom Copley from CAMRA the Pub Protection Summit on Wednesday last allowed us to hear the passion of Jonathan Wade senior planning officer from K&C, who spelt out their response to the accelerated losses, to be followed by Cllr. Liam Curran who made it very clear that Lewisham were in no mood to compromise. Whilst the main messages were succinct and hard hitting, I was able to hear about the experiences of the micro-brewers like East London Brewing Company who produced their first keg of real ale in August 2011. Delivering this shared vision of independent brewing alongside her equally adventurous husband is Claire Ashbridge-Tomlinson, who generating an excited sense of personal achievement was there to promote one of their darker ales.
Its early days for this fledgling organisation but against the backdrop of a double or even triple dip recession, East London Brewing, are doubling their workforce. Admittedly, this upgrade will mean their having two employees instead of just one but in reality, ELB are adding weight to our in-work statistics. ELB have translated business plans into growth, with their Income Tax and NI contributions welcome news for the chancellor and further growth compounded by the knock-on effect of real jobs in real ale pubs employing more staff in their local communities.
ELB is just one of 44 micro-brewers but this figure is set to rise with their contribution to the economy coming in alongside social cohesion that real ale pubs uniquely bring to their local communities, so it was heartening to see that Lloyds TSB Commercial are starting to lend to these SME’s. Small beer though it may be at only 4% of their overall capacity for gearing, but if allowed to thrive these micro-brewers are growth business and I do hope that next time CAMRA sound their clarion call, real ale brand awareness is given an even bolder presence with the chosen venue made over to an environment that is fitted out with a large presentation screen at one end and a mock-up of a heritage pub at the other, echoing a style of Victorian or Edwardian elegance but of course with the beer displayed at its contemporary taste bud best.