The church, the cricket lawn and the pub. For centuries, that “holy trinity” was the essence of life in a typical English village.Church congregations have long ago melted away, and there were fears that the pubs, those drinking establishments with quaint names, rickety furniture and lukewarm beer, would also disappear. Thousands of such “public houses” went out of business over the past two decades alone.
But Britain’s pubs are fighting back, and are proving surprisingly resilient. Latest government statistics indicate that the decline in their numbers has been halted and that pub culture may actually be coming back into fashion [ . . . ]
Twenty five per cent of the UK’s pubs have closed since 2001. But the picture is finally improving, because of the hot World Cup summer – and some local people power.
Twenty five per cent of the UK’s pubs have closed since 2001. Between January and June 2017, more than 20 pubs shut every week – 525 in total. If this startling trajectory had continued, Britain would have eventually been left with nothing more than a handful of Wetherspoons and a Hungry Horse. Once buzzing neighbourhood establishments with their shiny green tiles would have finally been completely replaced by unaffordable flats and branches of Tesco Express. The latest figures reveal 14 pubs closed their doors each week between July and December 2018, according to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Despite the slightly more positive picture, the consumer champion has renewed its call to tankards and is again promoting its Save Our Pubs campaign. It said the Government needs to “urgently halt the tide”. National chairman Jackie Parker said: “Pubs are a very important part of our national culture and are valuable community assets which help to combat loneliness and social isolation.”
The number of small pubs has halved in under 20 years
This romanticism isn’t far-fetched: pubs have long been a vital resource for British people. Sitting by a fire, a slot machine and a snoozing dog with a pork pie and a pint of Doom Bar isn’t fantasy. It’s a real thing that happens Fortunately, there have been positive signs in the past two years. While small pubs remain under threat – since their peak, at 40,840 in 2002, their number has halved to 22,840 last year – their relative demise has slowed. CAMRA said there are things to be hopeful about: tighter planning regulations, community action groups, and increasingly diverse boozers have all buoyed trade. “It’s great we have seen a drop in the number of pubs closing, showing that our hard-fought campaign to get planning protection for pubs was worth it,” said Ms Parker [ . . . ]
The number of pub closures has dropped slightly from a rate of 18 a week last year, thanks in part to CAMRA’s success in achieving new local planning protection for pubs in England, but remains high at 14 a week.
Four years ago, the rate was much higher at a rate of 29 per week in 2014. Since then, a number of initiatives have been launched by CAMRA alongside MPs to ease the rate of decline in the on-trade.In march 2017, the treasury announced it would ease business rates for 90% of pubs, providing a £1,000 discount to business rate bills for all properties with a rateable value below £100,000. [ . . . ]
Things have been declining for decades. There were 67,800 pubs in Britain in 1982, and 60,100 as recently as 2002. By 2015, there were just 50,800.
Campaigners are calling for action to stop the trickle of pub closures turning into a flood. An average of 18 pubs a week are shutting down, according to research by Camra (Campaign for Real Ale), which puts much of the blame on a “triple whammy” tax burden. Rising business rates, which have also struck retailers on the high street, have combined with VAT and “one of the highest rates of beer duty across Europe” to put pub landlords under a strain they are finding it difficult to withstand, Camra says. Campaigners called for ministers to use Brexit as a chance to ease the burden.
“As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, the Government has a unique opportunity to update the tax system to better support pubs, which are a bastion of British culture and at the heart of communities across the country,” said Colin Valentine, Camra’s national chairman. We’ve heard the tax line before, notably from Wetherspoons’ Tim Martin. But is there really a problem? And how do we fix it? [ . . . ]