Pub closure blamed on rising prices and smoking ban

IT WAS home to the most formidable ladies’ darts team in the Capital, attracting admirers including oche legend Dennis Priestley. But reigning champions the Leith Ladies will have to find a new home when the Stag’s Head calls time tonight and closes its doors once and for all.

The traditional boozer, which opened as part of the tenement block on Broughton Road in the 1890s, is to be sold.

The once-thriving social hub has fallen victim to the recession with a dwindling customer base being blamed on rising brewery prices and the smoking ban.

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Diane Crolla, who has ran the pub for 24 years and captained the women’s darts team, said: “The pub has always been here, it’s an institution. I can’t imagine us not opening up.

“The numbers have fallen over the years but we still have our regulars who have been coming for years.

“They’d come to play darts, always comment on how good our beer was and have a chat with friends.

“It was a day and night pub, with different crowds coming in at different times. We’d have the regulars in the day and then get the youngsters coming in at night.

“I think the nail in the coffin for us has been the smoking ban. It’s ok if you’re a place downtown with a fancy smoking shelter but we can’t have that here.”

The 123-year-old pub, which includes many original features like its listed Victorian ceiling, has clearly found it difficult to adjust with the times. Rising beer prices have been compounded by unbeatable offers from the likes of the supermarket across the road.

Diane, 64, said they had been fighting a losing battle to sustain the traditional pub.

“The price of beer has gone up a lot which obviously puts people off. If it’s a choice between spending £3.50 on a pint or drinking at home where it’s warm and you can have a smoke, then people will stay at home.

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“It’s a very say day for all of us, we’re like a big family. There’s been a lot of tears shed but I still don’t think it’s fully sunk in that this is it.”

Figures released by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association show three pubs a week are closing in Scotland.

Regular James Haggarty, 74, has been going to the pub almost daily for 30 years.

“It’s a traditional working men’s club and a different class to other places. I will miss popping in for a pint of special,” he said

Hugh and Mary Nicolson, of neighbouring Logie Green Road, said it was a big loss to the community. The couple said they enjoyed attending the annual pensioner party that was thrown as a thank you to regulars.

Retired shop fitter Hugh, 77, would also enjoy a half and a whisky while reading the paper in his favourite spot.

“It’s disappointing that it’s going,” he said. “It has been interesting with different people coming over the years.”

The pub is the second to close in the vicinity with the Powderhall Arms shutting its doors last year.

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Paul Waterson, Chief Executive of the SLTA, said: “We have lost some really good historical places over the last few years. Sadly the majority of them won’t reopen.

“The traditional pubs in particular have never really recovered after the smoking ban. Almost 80 per cent of their three to five days a week drinkers would smoke.

“When they told us the pub would be full of non-smokers it was nonsense then and it still is.”

All hands to the pumps

The Campaign for Real Ale says the rising cost of a pint is causing hundreds of pubs to close a year.

The beer duty escalator introduced in 2008 means the amount of tax paid on beer is automatically increased by two per cent above inflation every year.

As a result, tax on beer has gone up by 40 per cent since 2008 and now accounts for over a third of the cost of a pint. The average cost of a pint of lager has risen from £2.57 in 2007 to £3.09 today, while a pint of real ale has risen from £2.34 to £2.91.

The price of a pint of Tennent’s Lager will soon be more than £4 in the Capital.

Two pubs close a day nationally, according to the latest research.