John Leech MP denies pub U-turn

Chorlton’s Lib Dems call time on EscapeAs many Manchester pubs struggle for survival, Withington MP John Leech has denied that his signing an Early Day Motion in support of the Axe the Beer Tax Campaign (also supported by the local Labour Party and parliamentary candidate Lucy Powell) places him at odds with previous campaigns against licensed premises.

John has been a vocal opponent of new licensed premises, even where those premises have kick started significant pockets of regeneration in his constituency. In previous correspondence, the MP has argued that new pubs should be restricted to non-residential areas such as Manchester city centre.

Now with pub closures across the country hitting six a day, John has signed up to a campaign focused on locals… the kind of pubs found in residential areas, right at the heart of the community.

Responding to an accusation that he is simply jumping on a populist bandwagon, Leech appears to draw a distinction between pubs and bars. The former, which apparently benefit the community, are undermined by the latter, which do not.

Definitions like this are always tricky and when I was working in PR for the pub trade in the early-to-mid 1990s, I recall some militant publicans calling for café bars to be banned. It seems the main point of difference is a café bar will offer food and coffee in a contemporary environment. Now many pubs have significant food offerings and an espresso machine behind the bar, which blurs the line somewhat.

John Leech is a fan of The Beech, a traditional pub that has seen better days on the same strip has the Lead Station, which is often credited with kick starting Chorlton’s bar revolution.

Any suggestion that the Lead Station has damaged the Beech is nonsense, because the Lead Station caters for communities to whom the traditional pub has limited appeal. It has a good daytime trade from parents, mainly mothers, with young children who enjoy dining together. Chorlton is home to a number of communities – it is multicultural – and in a competitive environment, the pubs that have found success are those that have carved out a niche for themselves.

It seems that in John Leech’s world the only pubs worth saving are those that appeal to a very particular sub-culture; traditional drinkers in traditional pubs.

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