Across the UK, a micro-revolution is brewing. Changes brought in by the licensing act 2003 meant that any building could apply for a premises licence. So, in 2005, Kent beer enthusiast Martyn Hillier took advantage of this change, turning his struggling off-licence into a micropub, The Butchers Arms. Martyn is credited with kicking off the micropub craze, and this new documentary, released yesterday, sets out to tell the micropub story so far as it follows three entrepreneurial Londoners who have decided to follow in Martyn’s footsteps and set up their own micropubs
This interesting documentary takes a look at the many reasons why so many people are now looking to open up their own micropub. Thanks to big pub chains putting up prices, doubling rents, dictating the beers that pubs must buy and the suppliers they must buy from, many modern-day pub owners feel that the way things have become is simply no longer viable for them and no longer best for their customers. Following the change in the law, those restrictions are now gone, with micropub owners free to choose the beers they want to sell and where they want to buy them from. Not only can they set their own rules, but they can now look to provide the best possible experience for their local community.
But getting to the point of opening up a micropub isn’t always plain sailing, as interviews with a number of experienced micropub owners reveals. With many local residents and councillors still wrongly assuming that a new micropub will automatically result in loud drunken fights out on their streets, owners find themselves having to jump through a number of hoops in order to fulfil their dream. One micropub owner recounts the time that he had to pay £900 just for a council official to come out and check how many decibels his new chiller was giving off, even though the German manufacturer had already stated that it was virtually silent, no louder than a common fridge.
But once the red tape has been dealt with and the doors finally open, the benefits of running a community micropub are clear to see. As of January 2021, there are now 360 micropubs in existence and there are twice as many in East Kent alone than there are Wetherspoons pubs in the whole of Kent. And with only around 0.01% of all micropubs going bust, it’s clear that the format works.
One of the entrepreneurs followed in the documentary is Lucy Do, who opened The Dodo in Ealing. With a marketing background, it’s clear that Lucy knows how to run and promote her new business venture with theme nights and other community events. But on top of that, Lucy also works closely with local micro-breweries – spending time with them on new beers, feeding back on what sells well. Not only beneficial for local businesses but beneficial for the beer drinkers who get to sample a wider range of beers.
Coming from Kent, I’m actually fairly new to the world of craft beers and micropubs so it was enjoyable for me to find out more about the world of micropubs and the benefits they bring to both owners and the communities that they serve. It was also exciting to spot one of the micropubs that I frequented a few times after work a couple of summers back featured in the documentary too!
Featuring interviews with micropub creator Martyn Hillier, brewing author Ken Smith and broadcaster Jaega Wise – among many others – this is an aspirational and easy-watch documentary for both casual micropub goers like myself, and for craft ale enthusiasts as well.
Micropubs – The New Local is available on Vimeo-on-Demand now: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/micropubsthenewlocal
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Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.