Cost of living: Pub landlord in Shrewsbury resists passing on huge brewery price rises

A reduction in the rate of inflation comes as small comfort to small businesses that are trying not to pass on price increases to their hard pressed customers.

Woodman Inn at Coton Hill in Shrewsbury. From left Lyn Beddoes, son Dean Beddoes, son Kevin Beddoes and father Robin Beddoes
Woodman Inn at Coton Hill in Shrewsbury. From left Lyn Beddoes, son Dean Beddoes, son Kevin Beddoes and father Robin Beddoes

Number crunchers at The Office for National Statistics say that the rate of inflation has fallen from 10.1 per cent in March to 8.7 per cent in April after the soaring cost of energy stabilised.

But the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which is one measure of the rate at which prices increase, is being kept stubbornly high by food inflation which is still at a 19.3 per cent, remaining close to the highest rate for more than 45 years.

Pub landlord Robin Beddoes has been behind the bar at the Woodman Inn at Coton Hill, in Shrewsbury, for 23 years alongside his wife Lyn.

As a freeholder he can "pick and choose" which products to stock, unlike other some landlords who are tied to particular brewers or drinks companies and have to buy direct from them.

"The big brewers are so, so greedy," said Mr Beddoes. "There was a recent price increase of 40p a pint but I can't justify passing on that much. The most I can pass on in one go is 15p a pint and have to absorb the rest."

Robin Beddoes at the Woodman Inn

Mr Beddoes said the increase was on top of two other recent price increases as the brewers pass on their own rising costs of production.

"I am taking a hit every time they put the beers up."

But he added a world of praise for smaller and micro brewers that he say are "very understanding" and don't increase their prices as much.

The Woody as it is known to locals in the Coton Hill area and beyond has been in the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA's) Good Beer Guide for the last 17 years.

And Mr Beddoes said he has a clientele who "understand" that there are pressures on publicans to raise their prices.

But to raise the price of a pint by 40p in one go could have led to customers walking out and refusing to pay.

"We have very loyal customers but there are diminishing returns when prices go up so much with no justification," he said.

As for trade now he says that after they had "taken a hit" trade is "coming back".

He praised the Government for the help it gave the trade.

"The Government did help small businesses and without it many would not have survived. They gave help during the pandemic and they did not get the credit for that," he said. "They've got some things wrong and some things right."

Mr Beddoes said the secrets to running a successful pub are to keep the toilets and the pub clean, to make sure a good pint is served, to present friendly faces and to try to remember everyone's name.

The Woodman is one of three pubs and one social club that are very close to each other in Coton Hill. The Royal Oak and the Bird In Hand are also trading while the Bagley Club is two minutes' walk away.

"There is a lot of competition," said Mr Beddoes. "It means we have to be on top of our game."

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