PUB landlords in Hyndburn are drowning their sorrows over the latest in a series of tax hikes on booze.
An Observer investigation last year revealed a worrying number of local pubs going to the wall – and there are now fears many more could soon call time.
Last week’s Budget saw new Chancellor Alistair Darling slap 4p on a pint of beer, 14p on a bottle of wine and 55p on a bottle of spirits in an attack on the binge drinking culture.
He said the rises reflected the fact that higher incomes had made drink more affordable over the past decade, while the extra money would go towards alleviating child poverty.
But Mick Way, who returned to the Swan pub in Manchester Road, Accrington, in October after a six-year absence, believes the trade is being killed off.
He said: "There’s no way Alistair Darling putting his 4p on a pint will stop binge drinkers. They get drunk before they go out.
"Pubs are closing because they get landlords in with stars in their eyes who haven’t got a clue what they’re doing and think it’s an easy way of making money."
Mr Way described the smoking ban as "totally out of order" and "undemocratic" and also singled out the breweries for blame, claiming investment companies were content just to collect rents rather than worry about sales.
He said: "In 2001 a pint of bitter was about £1.20 or £1.30. It’s now £2. If I had known in October what I know now I would never have come back."
John Cougill, of the Imperial on Blackburn Road, Accr-ington, who is chairman of the Pubwatch scheme, agreed that the price hikes placed more pressure on pubs.
He said: "There will be hard times for us in the future. I’m not in favour of the smoking ban."
Pubwatch is focused on promoting responsible drinking and eliminating anti-social behaviour.
Mr Cougill added: "I think the Government needs to rethink its policy. Just putting up the prices will not stop anti-social behaviour. Most landlords in Accrington try to govern what happens in their pubs and work closely with the police.
"Obviously things do go wrong from time to time but the cheap beer and spirits in supermarkets is getting people drunk before they even get to the pub.
"The beer drinkers are mainly the older type who are drinking responsibly.
"There’s still a future for the pub industry but we cannot afford to be hammered in successive Budgets."