Research by the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) found pub closures slowed slightly in 2015 to 27 a week, but the UK now has 52,750 pubs — 20% fewer than in 2006 when there were 66,177.
Beer sales slide
The dramatic figure, together with news that sales of beer in Britain declined by 1.5% compared to the previous year, have bolstered campaigns for a tax cut in next month’s Budget.
The British Beer & Pub Association’s quarterly Beer Barometer survey indicated a loss of 114 million pints from Britain’s pubs, bars and restaurants (compared to the previous year), as off-trade sales held steady.
Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “The figures show this is no time for complacency, and any re-turn to tax rises would wipe out this fragile recovery.
“We need another penny cut in the Budget — to safeguard jobs and much-loved pubs, and to help Britain’s hard-pressed beer drinkers.”
The figures are not all bad news as Britain’s beer sales have stabilised during the past three years following years of sharp decline — due to the “disastrous” tax policy of the beer duty escalator, which saw beer tax rise by 42% from 2008 to 2013.
“Since then, we have seen growing confidence in the sector, but figures show this is no time for complacency, and any return to tax rises would wipe out this fragile recovery,” Simmonds added.
The closure figures are a slight improvement because 33 were shutting a week in 2014, but CAMRA is still fighting for a duty cut.
CAMRA’s chief executive Tim Page said otherwise the trend of slowing closures could “very quickly be reversed”.
Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate Nicholls said closure figures are a step in the right direction but says the tax burden remains too high.
She said: “The recovery is fragile. There is little doubt that this will be a challenging year with food inflation, rising wholesale prices and a big hike in labour costs all eroding margins.
“If the Government wants to see pub closure figures continue in the right direction then we need action now on business rates and employment taxes to stabilise the market.”
Nicholls argued that a duty cut could be wiped out by beer wholesale price increases.
This year will also see rising costs from the implementation of the national living wage, higher business rates, and the apprenticeship levy.