UK: Pub closures running at 25 per week – new national and regional survey

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Pubs are closing at the rate of 25 per week, as the trade continues to face tough conditions in all parts of Britain, according to new figures released on Wednesday. The British Beer & Pub Association, which commissioned the new survey, says that the Government should now abandon plans for a huge seven per cent increase in Beer Tax in the Budget next week. The BBPA says that with the right policies, the beer and pub sector, which employs almost 1 million people, could play a leading role in bringing the economy out of recession.
While the closure rate has slowed from the previous year’s 40 per week, there were almost 1,300 fewer pubs in Britain by the end of 2010. With a typical pub employing around ten people, this represents a net loss of jobs of around 13,000 across the country. Pubs are closing in every part of England, as well as in Scotland and Wales. The rate of losses is highest in London and the North West, though all regions are suffering a decline.
With beer still the key seller for pubs, huge rises in Beer Tax, which has gone up by 26 per cent since March 2008, are a huge drag on the sector, says the BBPA. To add to the problem, the Government plans a further, swingeing seven per cent rise in duty in the Budget, through the controversial policy of the beer duty escalator. This is set to add two per cent above inflation to the existing duty burden, which would add 3.5 pence in Beer Tax on a typical pint, with bar prices set to rise by up to ten pence a pint. Taken with the VAT increase in January, the Government is heading for the biggest ever tax hike on beer in a single year.

BBPA Chief Executive, Brigid Simmonds, comments:
“The closure of 25 pubs every week is bad news for the economy, as the sector plays such a vital role. It’s also a blow for local communities, with pubs often acting as the hub of local life.
“With the right policies, this vital part of our tourism and hospitality sector could be creating new jobs, and helping to bring Britain out of recession. If we really do have a pub-friendly government as the Prime Minister says, the time to act is now – with a freeze in beer duty in the Budget.“