Owners of rural pubs say their industry is 'at risk' due to rising costs

Owners of rural pubs and restaurants have been telling ITV News their industry is "at risk" because of the cost of living crisis.

One landlord near Taunton has seen numerous nearby pubs close in the last year and says they’re struggling to justify opening during the week because of a lack of customers.

Tim Young runs the Farmers Arms in Combe Florey near Taunton. Six years ago a fire devastated it.

The building was rebuilt and then reopened 18 months later, but then Covid hit, and now the cost of living crisis is making it harder than ever.

Tim said: "It's rough. We've been treading water - I say treading water, sort of slowly sinking like everyone else, really. We have good weeks, bad weeks, struggling to pay all the bills.

"Everything's gone up - we're paying £650 a month to have our bins emptied, things like that that people don't really see is part of the cost of running a business like this."

The Rising Sun in nearby West Bagborough closed last autumn and the owners of The Blue Ball two miles away in Triscombe are hoping to turn it into holiday lets.

Tim says the future of rural pubs are very much at risk, saying: "I think without help from the government or councils they become a destination, they become seasonal, almost, or weekend type pubs.

"Now that's no good for chefs who want a full time job.

"We've got some great chefs here, they constantly come up with new menus. So it's just trying to come up with things that people like.

"The old days when you just try to make it somewhere nice for people to go is gone - you've got to keep reinventing yourself."

Anita-Clare Field has moved towards private dining after turning her restaurant into a monthly supper club

Anita-Clare Field is the Chef Patron at La Petite Bouchée. Most of her work is now in private dining and often in holiday lets around the region.

What was her restaurant in Witheridge, Devon, now only opens once a month for a supper club.

She said: "I think people thought it was a bit drastic but I'd rather get it over with, rip the plaster off, get on with what we're doing, establish ourselves.

"This year - this recession is not going away. We can fill up our diary with private bookings, which is what I've done."

Both Anita-Clare and Tim are taking part in this year’s Exmoor Food Festival - which it’s hoped will give the hospitality industry in the area a much-needed boost.

Event founder Elke Winzer said: "People have got used to not going out. So that is what we are trying to do with the food fest - to dangle a carrot or actually really nice three, four or five course meals in front of them and say it's really worth it - grab a few friends and go out and it will not cost you an arm and a leg."

Everything is rising in cost - business rates, fuel, products. With customers also having less to spend, it is the perfect storm for our pubs and restaurants.