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Pubs are a risky business but there is still life in Bexley's boozers

PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 May 2013 | UPDATED: 09:08 24 May 2013

Ray Hurley, manager of The Door Hinge in Welling

Ray Hurley, manager of The Door Hinge in Welling

Archant

In 2011, one of the most iconic pubs in the borough of Bexley, the Black Horse, called time for good.

The pub in Sidcup High Street had been struggling and a developer planned to turn it into a joint Travelodge and Waitrose.

Next in line could be the Seven Stars in Foots Cray, which is believed to be the oldest pub in the borough. The company which owns the venue in High Street, Punch Taverns, put it up for sale two years ago and an offer has been accepted which could see it turned into flats.

However, London as a whole recorded 109 fewer closures than openings in the six months from September 2012 to March, which was the best rate of any region in the country.

The Door Hinge in Welling High Street opened 10 weeks ago and landlord Ray Hurley is confident it has what it takes to survive.

He said: “We specialise in real ales and encourage people to talk to one another, even complete strangers.

“There’s no entertainment because we want to offer something different – small independent boozers can’t just copy what Wetherspoon is doing because they won’t survive.

“We’ve gone for a different concept which will hopefully make us unique and encourage people to come back. Business has been pretty good so far.”

Bexley residents on Twitter suggest one of the main reasons local pubs struggle is the difficulty of competing with large chains.

@hayleylazell said: “There are too many Wetherspoons so your ‘locals’ pubs can’t compete on prices.”

@DannyBoomHead added: “The economic climate is obviously a major factor too. No disposable income = chains more affordable, even though they’re generic, bland, commercial and second rate.”

Popular pubs in communities, such as the Porcupine in Mottingham, have seen determined campaigns as locals try to save their favourite pubs.

But does there come a time when you have to cut your losses and put sentiment to one side?

Steven Nelson, from the South East London Chamber of Commerce, certainly thinks so.

He said: “Sometimes there is no option but closing down a pub if it is not making any money. You can’t carry on in any business if you’re not, and that doesn’t just apply to pubs.

“There comes a time when you say it has to change into housing or even the little supermarket.”

The Twitter response suggests there is the appetite to see small, family-run pubs thrive, but that is easier said than done.

One respondent nominated the Coach and Horses in Bexley Village as their favourite pub.

Its manager Tony Stowell said the traditional pub succeeds because of its great atmosphere, fine traditional ale and delicious food.

So it might just still possible to open a successful establishment in Bexley with the right ingredients.

What are your favourite pubs in Bexley?

Email robin.cottle@archant.co.uk or tweet @bexleytimes and let us know.

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