Wet-led community pubs again bore the brunt of closures last year with their number falling by 1.2%, according to new market figures.
The Market Growth Monitor from AlixPartners and CGA Peach found that a net of 808 wet-led sites were lost last year.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, pointed to a growth in food-led venues, but warned that increasing property and labour costs threatened to derail stability and hamper investment.
“The Government has promised once-in-a-lifetime reform of business rates and this would be a good place to begin,” she said. “We need a reformed system that encourages, rather than punishes, success in order to allow pubs the chance to prosper and grow and provide customers with a superior alternative.”
The 1.2% drop in wet-led venues was a notable slowdown in the context of a 12.6% fall since 2010. The report concluded that the decline was due to fragile consumer confidence and to the availability and costs of property.
The British Beer & Pub Association called on Government to address the strains on wet-led venues by reducing beer duty.
Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “If drinks are a higher proportion of your sales, you are left far more exposed to punishing duty rises. The huge rises in beer duty from 2008 to 2013 had a particularly damaging impact on wet-led pubs, and duty rates are still far too high in the UK.”
In total, Britain had more than 124,000 licensed premises in December, up 0.1% year-on-year due to the growth of restaurants. However, the figures came with a warning that the boom in food-led venues may not last.
The report stated: “With the pace of openings slowing, our latest Market Growth Monitor will give pause for thought to anyone who thinks the boom will last for ever. Competition for market share is fiercer than ever, and the risk of saturation is likely to be an increasingly pressing issue this year.”
The AlixPartners and CGA Peach Market Growth Monitor is compiled quarterly from data supplied by CGA’s Outlet Index, a continually updated database of all licensed premises.