Leicestershire landlord Andrew Southerden is awaiting delivery of a 17ft rowing boat to stand outside the 18th century pub he has transformed into a ship for the Queen's Jubilee.
Southerden has spent the last seven months, with the help of hundreds of locals, designing, building and decorating a 210-tonne bow, complete with portholes and life rafts, to fit onto the end of his pub, the Coach and Horses in Kibworth. When the rowing boat arrives it will provide additional seating for the street party he plans to host over the long bank holiday weekend.
"There has been a huge downturn in the number of people coming to pubs for an after-work drink and, to survive, you have to make an extra effort to get more people through the door," he said.
Southerden's efforts might be more outlandish than most but he is not alone in his thinking. Landlords and managers across the UK are setting themselves up for what could be "the summer of the pub" with the triple whammy of the Queen's diamond jubilee, the Euro 2012 football championships and the Olympics all expected to boost trade.
Pubs are currently closing at a rate of 12 a week, hit by factors that include a downturn in consumer spending, cut-price supermarket alcohol and high taxation on beer and spirits. Both publicans and industry experts believe this summer could provide a crucial boost to the sector.
"We see 2012 as the summer of the pub," said Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA). "We are already seeing some of the benefit in the numbers of people visiting their pubs to watch the Olympic torch go past. I do think the summer's opportunities are going to be make or break for some pubs."
The BBPA expects 60m to 80m extra pints and 7.5m extra meals to be sold over the Jubilee bank holiday weekend.
Figures from the industry's leading data analyst CGA Strategy show that on the Friday of the royal wedding, seen as a comparable event, alcohol sales in pubs were up by 30% on a typical Friday night.
"There are undoubtedly a number of pubs out there who are pinning their hopes on this unprecedented summer of events," said Mark Newton, senior partnership development manager at CGA. "In some cases it may well mean that they can continue to trade for longer after the event as it will give them a financial cushion but I don't think overall there will be a long-term bounceback for the sector."
He added: "There are too many other mitigating factors." One of the biggest is the weather. "If we have a really cracking long-term summer this could have just as much of a positive effect on sales as all these three events put together. If we don't, it could have a significant negative impact."
Jane Martin, landlady at the tiny Prince of Wales pub in Falmouth, is another publican pulling out all the stops to benefit from the jubilee. The pub is putting on a ration-book menu over the weekend based on wartime recipes including rabbit stew and corned beef hash. On the Sunday the pub will host a Big Lunch, where everyone will bring their own dish for a community party, and on Monday it is offering afternoon tea to music from 78rpm records on a wind-up gramophone.
"Events like the jubilee and the Olympics do make a difference but it remains to be seen just how much," said Martin. Because of the economic situation she expects people to dip in and out of events, rather than staying for the whole weekend spending money"But what events like this do is raise awareness of the pub to new people who might then come back," she said.
Pubs in London and the south-east and those based around other Olympics sites will see a much stronger knock-on effect from the Games than those elsewhere, said Newton. "A number of major pub chains have already been ramping up their activities ahead of the Olympics with things like temporary pop-up pubs to ensure that they meet the insatiable demand for alcoholic drinks in that period."
The appropriately named Monarch pub in Camden, north London, is jumping on the jubilee bandwagon by hosting a free "Monarchy in the UK" music night on bank holiday Monday and will be showing the football during the European championships. Although it has no plans for the Olympics, its staff expect a boost to sales during that time. "There will be a lot of extra tourism in London and, although trade might not increase during the day, we expect to benefit from people looking for somewhere outside of east London to drink at night," said Mark Gilmore, who works behind the bar in the pub.
Pubs that put on events to pull in the punters over the summer will continue to face stiff competition from cut-price supermarket offers. Tesco and Morrisons said they were planning promotional offers on alcohol to coincide with the summer's events but would not reveal details for fear of competitors trumping their prices.
Paul Morris, who lives in Twickenham, south-west London, said he intended to take advantage of any supermarket deals.
"There is so much live sport over the summer and time and budget means I can't get down the pub for most of it, so I'll probably stock up from the supermarket and watch a lot of it at home," he said. "I do think – and hope – the pubs will do well out of the three events this summer. Our local is really family-friendly, so I imagine it will do some decent promotions and we'll probably get down there during the diamond jubilee for some lunch and a few beers."
Kate Vogelsang, who lives in Walthamstow, east London, said she would not be in the pub for the jubilee or the Olympics. "I have never considered watching the Olympics in a pub, I really don't associate it with drinking. But I'll definitely be watching all the Euro 2012 England games in pubs, as I usually do. Football needs beer."
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