North-east landlords blame cheap alcohol for industry woes

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Cheaper alternatives: landlords in the north-east say minimum unit pricing would help pubs
Cheaper alternatives: landlords in the north-east say minimum unit pricing would help pubs

Related tags: Tax, Alcohol duty, North east

Landlords in the north-east have said cheap alcohol sold by supermarkets is to blame for pub closures in the region.

The majority of landlords believe alcohol prices should be increased, a survey commissioned by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office revealed.

Some 200 publicans were asked for their thoughts on the demise of pubs in the area and how the Government should act to protect institutions.

Customers opting to stay in more often and drink alcohol purchased in the off-trade before going out are two behavioural shifts that have had a detrimental impact on the industry, landlords said.

In the first six months of the year, 13 pubs closed in the north-east, figures​ from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) show.

Cuts in alcohol duty have only had a minimal beneficial impact on the fortunes of landlords, as only 7% said tax reductions had helped their business.

Minimum unit price

Three quarters said increasing supermarket alcohol prices would help tackle alcohol harm, while 64% said it was the best way the Government could help the pub industry thrive.

Around half said they were supportive of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol, a policy that has been active in Scotland since May.

Wales was granted the right to introduce a MUP in August in order to reduce the number of alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions.

Industry backlash saw the end of a short-lived Government plan to introduce the policy in England in 2012.

Balance director Colin Shevills said: “Britain’s pubs are clearly under pressure and we wanted to hear what local landlords are feeling.

“Too often, the reasons for closures are put forward by multinational alcohol producers who have as much of a stake in selling it from supermarkets as in protecting the British pub."

Parity with supermarkets

He said the survey concluded “alcohol tax cuts are not passed down to pubs or their locals, and landlords want a more even playing field with supermarkets".

“One way to close that growing gap between on and off-trade would be the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol in England,” he added.

Kevin Hindmarsh, a pub manager and vice-chairman of Newcastle City Pubwatch said a MUP would help reduce dangerous alcohol consumption as well as the pub industry.

Harm reduction

Hindmarsh said: “Supermarket alcohol is too cheap and prices should be raised. Pubs can’t compete and it is having a negative impact on our industry.

“We haven’t felt any benefits of alcohol duty cuts. They are only making alcohol cheaper in supermarkets, rather than helping to support pubs.

He added: “Landlords also have a legal responsibility in harm reduction and they can monitor the amount people are drinking in pubs and bars, whereas supermarkets have no control over the amount of alcohol people buy or consume."

Related topics: Legislation

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