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Last orders: Study shows pubs closing at alarming rate

Analysis of government data shows the number of pubs closing has skyrocketed during the first three months of this year, prompting campaigners to call on the next government to save our watering holes.

The figures show the number of pubs in England and Wales – including vacant ones and those being offered for let – dropped to 39,162 at the end of the first quarter of 2024 to 31st March. At the end of last year, the figure stood at 39,401.

a row of beer taps sitting on top of a bar

Commenting on the statistics, Sacha Lord, the night-time economy advisor for Greater Manchester, told The Morning Advisor: ‘Our pubs are vital to our communities, our tourism and our economy and this data is a stark reminder of the devastating impact that the cost-of-living crisis is having on venues, particularly the smaller, independent pubs.’

‘Food inflation, increasing supplier costs, unsustainable energy bills, rising rents – the financial burden on hospitality is all-encompassing,’ Lord added. ‘Customers may be coming in, but the costs of operating are simply too high, and we must continue to bring attention to the plight of landlords across the country.’

Experts found that establishments in the North West are among the worst affected. During the first quarter of 2024 the region lost 35 pubs, and some were converted into other services such as offices, day nurseries or homes.

Lord said that loosing pubs in this area is particularly upsetting as the North West ‘has one of the most vibrant night time economies in the UK’.

Lord remarked: ‘This is a clear signal that the current package of support being given to the sector is unsustainable. The incoming government must recognise this as an urgent priority or risk further significant job losses across the sector.’

Sacha Lord isn’t alone in her worries for pubs across England and Wales. Following the publication of the figures, Campaign for Pubs – the UK grassroot campaign speaking for institutions – launched #PledgeforPubs which is calling on candidates in the upcoming General Election to save pubs should they get into Parliament.

The campaign group have outlined six key policies that the next Prime Minister should prioritise, which include:

  • Giving pubs better protection
  • Introducing an energy cap for businesses
  • Create fair tax for pubs
  • Stop the pubco rip-off and the abuse of the tie
  • Introduce a community right-to-buy
  • Create a competition and markets authority review of the UK beer and pub sector

Dawn Hopkins, vice-chair of the Campaign for Pubs and a publican in Norwich said: ‘Now is the time for election candidates of all parties to make a commitment to pubs, publicans, and small brewers. With 80 pubs a month closing, it cannot be denied any longer that pubs and publicans are not receiving the help and support desperately needed.

‘There needs to be targeted help for to get through the cost-of-living crisis, starting with an energy cap for businesses to deal with extortionate energy bills as well as a complete overhaul of business rates, to deal with the unfair way pubs are taxed.  The next Government must also reform the planning system, to stop the cynical buying and selling of pubs as development opportunities and to allow pubs to continue as a pub, where there is a buyer at the independently assessed value as a pub.’

Paul Crossman, chair of the Campaign for Pubs and a publican in York, added: ‘The Campaign for Pubs is calling on all election candidates to back the #PledgeforPubs and to commit to the key policies that will actually help pubs through the cost-of-living crisis and stop the unnecessary closure and loss of viable pubs up and down the country.

‘We need a government that will act to end to the systematic corporate profiteering and wealth extraction that continues to afflict thousands of pubs across the UK, and that will put real planning protection in place to end the pillaging of our remaining precious national pub stock by rapacious developers whose only interest is a quick profit.’

Image: Dovlet Hojayev

More on the future of pubs:

Cheers!: Brewery giant to invest £39m in reopening pubs

Justice for pubs: planning laws must change to protect historic buildings 

Emily Whitehouse
Writer and journalist for Newstart Magazine, Social Care Today and Air Quality News.

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