Closures have slowed but they need to stop

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Closures have slowed but they need to stop

Related tags National living wage Alcoholic beverage

It’s a positive piece of news to hear that the rate of pub closures has slowed, although, more positive, would be that there was no rate of closure at all, and the sector was actually growing.

The fact that a fifth of pubs have closed during the past decade​ is quite a shocking figure, and while some of those pubs would have proved to be unviable in the modern age, there will have been some that closed undeservedly.

They’ll always be ebb and flow in this game, and there’s an argument to be made that some pubs shouldn’t be retained, while the tragedy often is that the ones we do want to retain, are often the ones that end up closing.

But, hopefully, that slowdown in closure will continue and more viable pubs will be retained and go on to thrive.

A reduction in the beer duty will help​ — up to a point — but only if that reduction feeds back down the line.

Many people have pointed out that despite the successive cuts in recent years, the price of beer in the pub has continued to rise, as the brewers tack on increases for inflationary reasons, or, in the lack of inflation as an excuse, investment requirements.

So while a cut in the beer duty will be great PR for the sector — we need to make sure that cut flows down to the bar so that when consumers flock in their droves to the pub expecting cheaper beer, that is delivered.

Of course, there are all sorts of other areas in which cuts would help pubs — business rates particularly — and it would be nice to see real strides made in that area in the coming year.

We’ve got the national living wage also coming in​, which is going to significantly add to costs for pubs when its comes to the labour bill but, if that blow can be softened by some cuts in other areas of the business, that will be something to celebrate.

Elsewhere, it’s great news to see that the pub sector is being recognised for the role it plays in promoting responsible drinking.

A recent study showed that alcohol-related deaths were falling​, despite the recent doom-mongering bandied about in the wake of the new drinking guidelines.

Pubs are certainly the safest place for people to drink, and many in the trade are working hard to ensure that remains the case and are actively encouraging people to behave responsibly.

Our recent Try January campaign​ was all about encouraging people to see the pub in a different light, to try new experiences and it’s not just about going down to the pub to drink.

Pubs play an important role as part of the fabric of our communities, and we need to reinforce that message and continue to push that responsible retailing agenda.

Finally, we’re delighted to announce that we’ve signed up one of the UK’s top comedians for the Publican Awards next month​.

Michael McIntyre is a giant in the comedy​ and entertainment industry, and we’re looking forward to having him host our awards in their 25th year. The night is shaping up to be a great one and I’m looking forward to seeing many of you there.

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