An Inverness publican has revealed he will soon be forced to charge £5 for a pint of Guinness – but not by choice.
Richie Paxton, 67, the owner of the Thistle Inn on Celt Road, says a perfect storm of Covid and rising costs of living has made it unsustainable to open up the way he did before.
Running costs are increasing, combined with fewer people able to justify the expense of coming through the door.
Mr Paxton, who is the former chairman of the Inverness Guest House and B&B Association, says until the real recovery from Covid happens – he will only be opening for “darts and doms” [dominoes] and for special functions.
£5 a pint for Guinness
Mr Paxton – who is keen to stress he is not putting prices up by choice – said: “I got a notification in from my supplier that our costs are going up by 10%. On top of that, we have the rising costs of heat and light, and then the various taxes we pay for the business. So it means customers are facing £5 a pint when this Guinness keg runs out.”
That is a rise of about £1 to pre-pandemic prices.
He added: “Other items will need to go up as well. But it is the suppliers rise in prices that have been the killer here.
“To be honest, it is cheaper for people to get down to the supermarket and buy four tins of beer. That will cost them £8 or £9. Or two bottles of wine for £10.”
Going from a thriving business where locals popped into the inn for a pint most afternoons, Mr Paxton said: “The old boys don’t come in anymore. They are afraid of catching Covid, but I think they will also be horrified at the price.
It will be 2024 before things come back – ‘if ever’
“At this rate it will be 2024 before things come back – if ever.”
Mr Paxton said his friend in the taxi business told him people were getting taxis into the city at midnight. He said: “They are coming in fully loaded with drink – rather than sit in pubs and pay the expensive prices.
“In the spring budget statement there was nothing that would help us as small business or as a pub. We have taken an absolute hammering with Brexit, with Covid and now with the cost of heating and lighting – we have nothing in our favour.
“Suppliers putting up their prices is the nail in the coffin – it is absolutely going to kill us.”
The Thistle Inn is one of the oldest bars in Inverness, with street plans going back as far as 1823, and its history from the 1700s. It was even said to have been used by followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the days before the Battle of Culloden.
Mr Paxton continued: “The 5p off fuel we were offered in the budget will do absolutely nothing at all for us.”
Councillor Duncan Macpherson, who represents Inverness South, said: “While the the chancellor didn’t put the tax up on beer, suppliers have made the huge price increase themselves.
“Quite rightly Richie wonders if people will be able to afford the new price. Changed days for publicans. It will be a sad day if the pubs in Inverness are only affordable by tourists.”
Guinness owners Diageo has been approached for comment.