To mark the conclusion of Dry January, a collective of pub aficionados, including the London Pub Explorer and CityStack, have come together to help community locals and launch ‘Support an Independent Pub Day’ on Saturday, 10 February.
Dry January once again occurred during an already precarious situation for independent pubs. Research has shown that 43.6% of wet-led pubs, bars and nightclubs have disappeared over the last 20 years. This trend is even more concerning for independent businesses, which have seen a 32.9% decline. Their managed counterparts, meanwhile, have experienced an uplift of 14.6% over the same period (1).
With skyrocketing operating costs, these treasured establishments can only survive with high footfall and customers spending money, even more so during the quietest period of the year.
This is why CityStack and author and pub writer the London Pub Explorer invite everyone to celebrate independent pubs and visit locals in their area on Saturday, 10 February, to show love and support to these cherished community centres that help millions of Britons fight loneliness and enjoy quality social time.
This special day will aim to raise awareness of the disappearance of these much-loved places that form part of the UK's DNA. To encourage people to visit independent pubs, the team of pub supporters will heavily promote the event with their passionate communities on social media. All independent pubs will be invited to spread the word to call patrons old and new to visit their establishment and celebrate the wonderful sense of community these homes away from home have to offer.
It is hoped that thirsty customers will visit local independent pubs in their droves on Saturday, 10 February. This patronage will not only see the cash tills ringing to support businesses after the harrowing month of Dry January but also hopefully inspire more people to visit independent pubs in their area for food, drink, entertainment and company. The term ‘Use it or lose it’ has never been more pertinent.
“London’s independent pubs are at the heart of our communities and a crucial part of our world-leading hospitality industry. We are incredibly lucky to have so many independent pubs – old and new – across the capital, but sadly many are facing huge challenges due to the rising costs of living and doing business, staff shortages and sky-high rents. We’re doing all we can at City Hall to support them and by visiting your local independent pub, you are also helping to ensure we don’t lose any more of these valued spaces, as we build a better London for everyone.” - Amy Lamé, London’s Night Czar (appointed by the Mayor of London in 2016)
On this occasion, Alistair Von Lion, the London Pub Explorer, will invite his Instagram community (35k followers) to gather at the Northcote Arms, an independent historic Leytonstone pub which, like many hostelries, faces massive challenges with the current economic climate.
“The Northcote Arms is very close to my heart as it carries the traditions of the past in East London. The landlady, like many, toils stoically to keep this treasure alive. It breaks my heart to see so many bastions of British culture cherished by their communities, such as the Northcote Arms, disappear every day. I want to encourage people to discover these pubs and help keep them alive by visiting them.” – Alistair Von Lion, London Pub Explorer
This ex-Charrington’s pub, built in the 1880s, is a much-loved local, where Leyton Orient supporters and the LGBTQ+ community come to drink alongside a harmonious cross-section of East Londoners. The landlady, a second-generation Cockney publican, took over the pub in 2014 and works passionately to keep the community entertained with inclusive weekly events, such as East End piano singalongs, music bingo and drag acts.
“My parents worked hard as guv’nors of their pub in Stepney in the 1990s, so I was well aware that taking on a community pub is a huge responsibility. I looked with great pride at the landlords who were out during the recent pandemic checking in on their vulnerable regulars, and it was always those of us from independent pubs. I try to make everyone of all different backgrounds feel welcome, whether you're East End born and bred or you've just moved here and need to make new friends.” – Tuesday Roberts, landlady of the Northcote Arms
The challenges pubs have faced for many years have become markedly worse since the pandemic. Changes in drinking habits, staff shortages since Brexit, massive increases in operating costs and - as is the case for Tuesday Roberts - upward-only AGA leases form endless belligerent obstacles which increase the daily struggle and make the position untenable for independent businesses.
CityStack has been created to fight such a situation and encourage Londoners to visit and support independent pubs. This gift for pub lovers is a unique discount scheme: a £25 stack of beer mats that lets pub lovers get £100 worth of food and drink at any ten of their 50+ independent pubs across London. The pack comes with a special beer mat to stamp at each venue to get £10 off a £20+ spend. Customers collect ten stamps to save £100.
“Our biggest season is Christmas, which is great because it encourages people to redeem their discounts just after they receive their pack, during the quietest period of the year. We want to encourage people to visit independent pubs and help them socialise within their budget.” – Alison Boutoille, Founder of CityStack
This clever system allows pub lovers to discover amazing independent pubs, support these locals and save money at the same time. It’s a win-win!
(1) Study from CGA by NIQ with UKHospitality – Britain’s licensed premises drop below 100,000 for the first time in 20 years
CityStack was initiated in 2021 by Alison, a pub aficionado, and a group of ten great independent London pubs. Together, they launched a two-week crowdfunding campaign for Christmas, where the target was quickly smashed.
Since then, CityStack has started to generate sales online and in retail independent shops. And more and more pubs have shown an interest in joining the movement.
In 2023, the CityStack team asked their community to recommend the best independent pubs in London and visited hundreds of venues across the city to handpick some of the best hidden gems.
The £25 stack of beer mats now offers Londoners £100 worth of food and drink at any ten of the 50+ independent pubs that are part of the collection. These hostelries include amazing renowned independent pubs such as the Dog and Bell, the Faltering Fullback, the Cleveland Arms, the Crown and Shuttle, Skehan’s, the Kenton and the Pelton Arms, alongside smaller independent community pubs such as the Star of Greenwich, the Old Justice, Old China Hand and the Rose and Crown.
These fantastic local pubs are willing to offer exclusive discounts with CityStack because it drives people to visit and discover them. Consumers save money, and the pubs gain new customers. It’s a win-win!
The goal? Allow more independent pubs to highlight why people should visit them and bring people back to the pubs!