It seems that in this world of boom and bust you either have money but not time, or time but not money. Could that conundrum be at the root of the British vanishing pub phenomenon? Until recently, many of us had money enough to go out and consume at our local whenever we felt like it — confident that, whatever happened, our houses would keep on rising in value and that we could therefore always borrow against them if the worst came to the worst. But we didn’t go out to the pub, because we were too busy.

Now, with less business activity about as recession looms, many of us will have more time on our hands (some of us, sadly, too much time)— but less money in our pockets. So how will that affect the pub trade? Will more open, or more close?

One man who reckons that now is the moment to move into the business is Henry Mo, 50, who — together with two partners — has just taken over The Somerset, in Marston Road, Marston.

He said: “My head said no, but my heart said yes.”

Paradoxically, his heart won precisely because pubs were closing down. Specifically, the closure of The Friar and The Plasterers’ Arms, both formerly in Marston Road, meant that there were no pubs left in the road to compete with The Somerset.

Nationally, pubs are closing down at the rate of 36 a week, according to figures released earlier this year by the British Beer and Pub Association; and at least 25 pubs out of 150 have closed in Oxford alone in the last ten years, according to the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).

But Mr Mo believes the banks are making matters worse for pubs.

He said: “I am a man with a mission to tell the world how difficult it is to get a bank to back a pub. My bank seems to have decided that it will not back pubs, as a sector.”

He added: “Banks are killing pubs by not backing them as a category. My bank manager said pubs are a ‘no-go area’ now for investment.

“I used to know my local manager, who would lend up to 30 per cent of a venture. But now I cannot get a loan or an overdraft. It doesn’t want to talk to me, even though I am a premium customer of many years. I have been in the catering business since I was 22 and now own eight successful sandwich bars.

“I even grew up in the kitchen of a restaurant after my parents came here from Hong Kong.”

Now Mr Mo and his partners — KK Chau, who formerly worked for pub company All Bar One, and Mr Chau’s son-in-law, chef Alex Tsui — have financed the revamping of The Somerset themselves to the tune of £100,000.

A spokesman for HSBC, Sue McMullen, said she could not comment on individual cases. She added: “HSBC is open for business and reviews all applications on a case-by-case basis. In terms of support for business, HSBC created a new $5bn global working capital fund for SMEs to ensure they continue to have access to appropriate credit through the current economic and financial crisis, £1bn of which was allocated to UK customers.

“In addition, on a more local level, HSBC invested £1.6m on our premises at Botley, significantly upgrading the Oxford Commercial Centre, which covers Oxford, North Oxfordshire and parts of Buckinghamshire, the official launch of which took place on December 9.”

But how do you run a successful pub in a credit crunch, particularly when such factors as drink-driving laws, a smoking ban, and cheap alcohol in supermarkets all combine against you?

Mr Mo said: “What you do is you keep up with change and provide something new, something extra, that customers cannot get anywhere else. There are two kinds of customer — impulse drinkers of the kind who still crowd into city centre pubs, and customers who go to community pubs. At the Somerset, both will feel at home.”

He said that location was important too, adding that students from Oxford Brookes University could reach The Somerset on foot and so avoid the drink-drive trap — and that Mr Chau’s made-to-order cocktails would soon tempt them in.

He said: “I know the industry is going through a bad time now, but I believe we have the skills to turn things around here.

“And regular customers have told me that they like to see the place renovated, even if it does mean the price of drinks has gone up. The trouble with many community pubs is that they become run-down because they cannot raise money to do themselves up. Then they lose more trade, and so it goes on.”

Recent pub closures in Oxford include The Horse and Jockey in Woodstock Road, so named because it became the headquarters of the stewards of the horse-racing meets that took place on Port Meadow from the 17th century until 1880; The Wharf, situated on a peninsular at the junction of busy Speedwell and Thame Streets, which served dock workers until the wharf was filled in during the 1840s; the Fox and Hounds in Abingdon Road, a mock-Tudor building designed by JR Wilkins in 1926; and the Elm Tree in Cowley Road, designed by HT Hare, who also designed Oxford Town Hall.

Then there is the White House in Botley Road, boarded up since the summer of last year, despite frequent assurances from owners Punch Taverns that it will reopen.

In Abingdon, even the historic King’s Head and Bell, with its many 17th-century Civil War connections, is now closed. But will the fact that people have more time and less money help pubs?

Mr Mo said: “If you give people what they want, they will still come. The secret is attention to detail and innovation. You have to have good food, good ambience and good service and invest in every customer.”