A LICENSING chief has voiced fears for the future of pubs in Hartlepool after plans were unveiled to create shops at a former town boozer.
The Mowbray, in Mowbray Road, on the Fens estate, is set to become the latest in a string of failing town pubs to be turned into retail units.
Euro Property Management moved in to buy the rundown pub and is ploughing thousands of pounds into re-developing it, with three national chains already showing interest in moving their businesses into the units.
Jon Whitfield, director of Euro Property Management, said he would be able to reveal the names of the companies within three to four weeks.
But while Mr Whitfield is excited by the prospect of breathing new life into the building, Darab Rezai, the chairman of Hartlepool Licensees Association, has bemoaned the loss of another pub.
Mr Rezai, who owns Zeus nightclub, in Whitby Street, said the trend is “worrying and sad” and blamed supermarkets selling cheap booze for the dying trade.
He said: “In my opinion, the problem is not with the individual developers, the problem is with supermarkets selling cheap drink, encouraging binge drinking and discouraging people from going to pubs. That is why they are closing one after another.
“It’s a real shame because in five or 10 years time this will have a big social impact.
“Pubs are a meeting place for people and soon they will lose contact with one another.”
Mr Whitfield says work has already started at The Mowbray after his firm acquired the building last month.
He said: “We bought the building on August 22 and started work on it on it quickly stripping it out.
“We’re cleaning up the whole site, it was looking really shabby.
“I would say that seven out of 10 people have made comments that they are really pleased to be having something useful done with the site, and that there won’t be a beer garden backing onto residential gardens anymore and people outside smoking and drinking until late.
“Some people have concerns when there’s change but I hope that when they see the improvements and money being spent on it and when it’s being run by national companies then it should calm any of their concerns.”
The Mowbray’s resurrection cements fears that the local pub trade is dying a death following the transformation of: The Powlett pub, off Powlett Road, which is now a Greggs and Spar, The Shakespeare, in Catcote Road, which was turned into a convenience store, The Pink Domino, in Brierton Lane, which was re-built as froozen food outlet Farm Foods, The Station Hotel, in Station Lane, which was bulldozed and is now a Sainsbury’s. The Good Pub Guide 2013 predicts that up to 4,000 pubs across the UK would be likely to go out of business within the next 12 months, with editor Fiona Stapley blaming landlords’ old-fashioned attitudes and “indifferent” service.
But she said about 1,000 new pubs would be likely to open over the same period, many led by “visionary” new landlords who could turn around failed establishments.