Pubs are now closing at the rate of six every day and more will follow if the Government presses ahead with plans for a mandatory code on alcohol retailing, which could cost the industry over £300m in the first year alone.
The latest closure figures from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) reveal that pubs are closing 20 times faster than three years ago. The figure of 39 closures a week in the last six months of 2008 compares to 36 a week for the first six months of the year. Last year, 1,973 pubs shut — 40% up on 2007 levels.
Suburban community pubs have been hit the hardest, closing at the rate of 19-a-week while town centre pubs have been closing at the rate of eight-a-week and rural pubs at 13-a-week.
The BBPA estimates that 44,000 jobs have been axed over the past couple of years with another 60,000 set to go if the Government follows through on plans for a mandatory code for the industry.
The mandatory code, which receives its second reading in Parliament today as part of the Policing and Crime Bill, could make training compulsory, make the provision of 125ml wine glasses mandatory and introduce alcohol warnings at the point of sale.
Home Office estimates put the cost to pubs and bars at £11,238 each per year. Home Office documents concede that "there is the potential for significant transitional costs including job losses and the closure of small businesses".
BBPA chief executive Rob Hayward said: "At this time of deepening recession and rising unemployment, the Government should be actively looking at ways to support the community asset of the pub. They should not be introducing legislation that will condemn more pubs to closure and put more people out of work.
"The Government openly state they believe that their new regulations will lead to more pub closures and job losses. Pub closures are a clear demonstration of the extreme financial and economic pressures facing the sector."
The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers estimates that 17,400 jobs were lost across the industry last year alone and has also voiced its fears that the "over-prescriptive code of practice" will lead to further job losses.
The code, itself, has been heavily criticised for being based on the KPMG report of industry standards.