Yorkshire’s oldest brewery has admitted it is facing financial stresses.
In a statement, Samuel Smith’s Brewery in Tadcaster made clear that the pandemic followed by economic turmoil had taken its toll on the business.
Usually very tight-lipped, the brewery told The Times that Covid 19, labour shortages, onerous regulation and rising maintenance costs have all taken a heavy toll on its pubs.
Sam Smith’s statement to the paper said: “We are having great difficulty as a small brewery. We are trying very hard to remain independent and get through the current financial situation.”
It added: “We do not see why we should not be left in peace.”
This follows an investigation by Times writer Robert Watts into the brewery and its impact on the wider area.
In it, he considers the effect on the business and town of the stewardship of famously reclusive brewery chairman Humphrey Smith, a direct descendant of Samuel Smith who founded the brewery in 1758.
Under his 40-year chairmanship, Humphrey Smith has imposed a list of rules for his pubs, from no swearing to no mobile phones, and has famously shut pubs for breaking these regulations.
Some Sam Smith’s have remained empty for years. The York Arms on High Petergate closed suddenly in July 2019 and has never reopened, despite being yards from the Minster.
The brewery estate also owns a lot of land and buildings in Tadcaster, “many of which now stand empty or derelict,” Mr Watts writes.
His article continues: “When asked, the brewery said that leaving dwellings empty was not in its interests and that many cottages are due to be demolished for road widening.
“It added that it has had to pay council tax on its empty dwellings and that updating former workers’ cottages to comply with environmentally friendly regulation requires ‘expensive’ work.
“’The brewery tries its best but is heavily borrowed and has limited resources,’” it said.”
The article suggests a significant number of Sam Smith’s pubs are currently closed. “Peter Alexander, a beer blogger and chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale for Rochdale, Oldham and Bury, was told last year that as many as 120 Smith’s pubs are currently closed — if true, that would be more than half of the 200-strong estate,” Mr Watts writes.
The full article is on The Times‘ website here.