Brew News

Pub numbers plunge to lowest in a century

Image courtesy of Koreila, wikimedia commons

Figures released today from CAMRA show that the number of pubs in Britain has dropped significantly in the last 6 months – so low in fact, that the number of pubs is now the lowest it’s been in over a century.

The 670 pubs that closed in the last 6 months mean that just 57,000 local watering holes are left, according to the figures from the Campaign for Real Ale, which says Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, was right to scrap the beer duty escalator during this year’s budget.

The ‘net closure rate’ (which is a difference between the number of pub openings and closures) is now at 26 per week, 8 higher than the 18 per week during the previous 6 month period.

The cut price lager on offer in supermarkets has been the cause of pubs’ demise according to landlords, with some supermarkets commonly selling lager at a lower price than bottled water to draw customers in.

But as Alex reported last week, sales of beer in the UK during the 1st quarter of 2013 were at their lowest for 14 years, since 1999. Sales of beer and lager in retail stores also fell to their lowest points in a decade, with over 213 million fewer pints being consumed in the 12 months to the end of March 2013 compared to the year before.

According to The Grocer, the loss of market share by the beer and lager industry is down to 18-25-year-olds making the switch to cider as a result of an increased variety of flavours now available in conjunction with a successful marketing push from the cider industry.

Binge drinking and readily-available, cheap beers and lagers have also been at the centre of mainstream media’s focus at several times over the past 12 months, with governments even considering minimum unit alcohol pricing in both the UK and Scotland, although the policy is rumoured to have been dropped by Cameron for the UK.

Budweiser’s UK director Jon Whittle says that this has resulted in people lowering their perceptions of beer.

“We need to tell people it isn’t unhealthy to have one or two beers,” Whittle told The Grocer.

“Such activity has helped chip away at people’s perception of beer. If we get a decent barbecue season that will help to get people back into the habit of buying beer.”

With all this in mind, it appears as if Osborne’s scrapping of the beer duty escalator couldn’t have come at a better time. Smaller community-owned pubs are also being given some respite from the consumer onslaught by being allowed pay reduced business rates.

Mike Benner, chief executive at CAMRA, said: “We believe that the scrapping of the beer duty escalator and the extra 1p off beer duty announced in this year’s budget could mark a turning point for pubs. With a better deal on beer tax, the Government’s plans for pub company reform and the ‘List Your Local’ scheme, announced during CAMRA’s Community Pubs Month, we are hopeful that the fortunes of Britain’s pubs are set to change.”

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson told The Daily Mail: “Local pubs are part of the social and cultural fabric of this nation and we are determined to protect them. That’s why we are cutting taxes for small community pubs by doubling small business rate relief for three and a half years and reducing corporation tax to 20 per cent, helping small and medium size pubs.”

Rob Stoddern, 57, from Tottenham, found drinking in The Cock Tavern in Somerstown, said: “No one can afford to drink in locals anymore, especially not in London. The price increases are bloody ridiculous – I’m not surprised pub numbers are bottoming out. First of all the government stopped us smoking in our locals, now they’re stopping us being able to afford to get a decent round in!

No wonder people are heading to the supermarkets when you can buy a four-pack for the same price as a proper pint!”

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