‘It’s becoming a ghost town - none of the locals have a pub to call their own’

Dave Mountford, landlord at Cromfords Boat Inn.
Dave Mountford, landlord at Cromfords Boat Inn.

Even if you are not a regular pub-goer you may well have noticed that a number of watering holes have called ‘time gentlemen, please’ and closed their doors for good during the last few months.

In Matlock Bath, The County and Station and Princess Victoria have both closed and The Riva has been shut for a fortnight.

Riva, North Parade, Matlock Bath

Riva, North Parade, Matlock Bath

And while it takes a lot more than a few pubs to keep a village going there is a feeling that the loss of pub venues is contributing to a quieter feel around Matlock Bath.

Those who do know a bit about pubs will know that a new law called the Pubs Code came into force this summer which means landlords can now opt-out of an age-old obligation to buy beer from the breweries and companies which own their premises.

But Dave Mountford, landlord of Cromford’s Boat Inn, says a lengthy and complicated process makes it extremely hard for landlords to free themselves of the ‘beer-tie’ and opt for a rent-only option.

And while the code has introduced a system of adjudication to allow landlords to negotiate a more affordable market rent, many feel it has forced pub companies to sell premises in order to pay down their debts.

Princess Victoria, Matlock Bath

Princess Victoria, Matlock Bath

Dave said: “Matlock Bath is becoming a ghost town - none of the locals have a pub they can call their own. And what is happening here is a glaring example of what is happening nationwide.”

For Dave, who campaigned hard with a few other publicans to see the code come into place, he is a rare success story.

The landlord took on the lease at the Boat four years ago after it was bought by a private investor.

“It is now a very successful business because it’s free of tie,” said Dave. “I can buy my beer at 16-17 per cent cheaper than I used to.”

County and Station, Dale Road, Matlock Bath

County and Station, Dale Road, Matlock Bath

Peter Baranek, chairman of Matlock Bath Parish Council, said traders had raised the issue of excessive rents in the village during a research project into its future as a tourism destination.

He added: “The parish council view is that any empty property reflects badly on the village. And there has been a fairly high turnover of businesses.

“One of the issues that the University of Derby has identified in its study is that there is not enough income through tourism to support the businesses we have here.”

Dave Mountford will be appearing on Newsnight tonight discussing the Pubs Code and the fact that not much has changed for the majority of landlords.