FOLLOWING a recent study into the social wellbeing benefits of pub-going, TOM MOLLOY looks at the state of Bolton’s pubs.

IN the past 15 years, more than 95 pubs have been forced to close across Bolton - resulting in the loss of more than 400 jobs.

Many of those businesses closed before the 2007/08 financial crisis, when experts say a lack of cash for customers caused a spate of issues.

While the total number of pubs has fallen, smaller establishments have been hit much harder by the crash, with data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showing that pub chains are switching their focus to larger bars.

“Most pubs in the UK are small, independently owned businesses – and it is mainly these kinds of pub that have closed over the last decade. But the number of independently-owned larger pubs is steadily rising,” ONS experts said.

“Meanwhile, small pub chains, which are often regional, family-owned businesses, have also switched their focus away from small pubs towards medium and large bars.”

A recent survey of 2,000 adults by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) indicated that more than half of regular real ale drinkers who go to pubs have made at least one new friend during their visits, with one in three saying they had made five or more.

CAMRA said its study also suggested people who have a pub in their area are happier, more trusting and better connected to their local community. CAMRA has now called on the Government to make ‘substantial reforms’ to support the industry and keep pubs open and thriving.

Nik Antona, CAMRA’s National Chairman said: “Pubs play a significant role in communities across the country, providing a space for local people to meet, helping to tackle loneliness, and having a positive impact on the personal wellbeing of pub-goers. It’s vital that the government continues to act to reduce pub closures so that pubs remain at the heart of communities.

“In addition, it is imperative that beer-drinkers continue to support the pubs trade by visiting them. Our Summer of Pub campaign aims to show what pubs have to offer and remind people how important the great British pub is to communities. Pubs have pulled out all the stops to celebrate this summer and provide something for everyone.”

One of the most recent pubs to close in Bolton was The Brooklyn, in Great Lever. It closed in May, with owners Joseph Holt blaming declining trade.

It has since been bought by KYK Holdings and leased to the principal of Lord’s Independent School - Anne Ainsworth.

Mrs Ainsworth is hoping to use the Grade II listed building as a second site for her private school.

She claimed one of the reasons she wanted to use the building was to preserve the architecture.

Mrs Ainsworth said: “We’ve been interested in The Brooklyn since it first went for sale late last year. It’s a historical building with a nice setting.

“I think a lot of people will be happy to hear that we’re hoping to keep the building because I think a lot of people were worried that it would be knocked down. It’s beautiful and it needs protection.

While a vast number of pubs are closing around the borough, there are some pubs that have recently been given a new lease of life.

The Balmoral, in Bradshawgate, officially reopened last week following a makeover.

It was taken over by pub firm Craft Union earlier this year, who completely transformed the inside of the pub.

A spokesman for Craft Union said: “We believe that the British pub plays a vital role in the lives of its customers and our philosophy at Craft Union is to put brilliant pubs back at the heart of local communities.

“We are committed to nurturing this by investing in the pub by ensuring that we retain the tradition and the heritage alongside improving the quality of the community offer with great products at great prices, along with premium sports and entertainment.”

Cllr Martyn Cox, deputy leader of Bolton Council and executive cabinet member for regeneration, said that firms looking to spend money and aid in the regeneration of the town centre are “welcome”.

“Anyone that owns and runs property in the town centre that is investing money is welcome,” Cllr Cox said.

“It’s sensible because there’s an awful lot that’s going to be going on in the next few years.

“The town centre is about to undergo a lot of change and anyone getting involved is making a good decision.”

A few other town centre pubs have also recently been given a lick of paint, with urban artist Kazer spraying murals onto Sweet Green Tavern, The Griffin, and The Greyhound.

Kim Smith, landlady of The Greyhound described the work on her pub as ‘amazing’ and said she did not want the pub to be ‘forgotten’.

She added: “It really brightens up this side of town. It’s better than expectations

“We’ve had loads of people come in just to tell us how good it is.

“We wanted to remind everybody that a little small freehouse pub like this is still here and we don’t want to be just another forgotten pub.”