Vanishing pubs ‘stark reminder’ of harsh reality

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Tough climate: Trade bodies urge Government to help out hospitality (Credit: Getty/ AndyRoland)
Tough climate: Trade bodies urge Government to help out hospitality (Credit: Getty/ AndyRoland)

Related tags Property Finance Legislation

Trade bodies have called for Government to help the sector, after new data revealed 77 pubs closed per month in the second quarter of 2023, issuing a “stark reminder”.

This comes after research from commercial real estate intelligence firm Altus Group revealed pubs disappeared at a rate of two per day in England and Wales between 1 April and 30 June.

This means 230 pubs vanished in total in the year’s second quarter – a 50% increase from the first quarter of 2023.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the figures were a “stark reminder” of the realities facing pubs.

These included businesses at the heart of communities gone forever, loyal staff losing their jobs and one less place for locals to eat and drinks she said.

For Nicholls, this is the real cost of the economic turmoil many are facing.

She said: “Even with rising costs and interest rates, more pain is set to come with an almost billion-pound hike in business rates next April."

Action needed

She continued: “If the Government wants to back the nation’s hospitality venues, not lose them, it needs to urgently commit to an extension of business rates relief and a freeze in the current multiplier.

“Inaction on business rates will sound the death knell for not just pubs, but other hospitality venues too, and that simply must be avoided at all costs.”

The overall number of pubs in England and Wales, including those vacant and being offered to let, fell to 39,404 at the end of the second quarter of 2023 to 30 June down 230 compared with 39,634 on 31 March 2023, data from the Altus Group revealed.

The pub tracker also showed that, during the first half of 2023, between 1 ​​January and 30 ​​June 2023, a total of 383 ‘vanished’ pubs have either been demolished and/or converted into other types of use such as homes, offices or even day nurseries.

Responding to the figures, British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “These figures don’t just tell the story of the hard times pubs have faced the past few years but indicate what’s to come if the Government fails to extend the business rates relief and implement wider business reform.

“Since 2020 our pubs have faced a myriad of challenges, from forced closures to an ongoing energy crisis and for many the looming increase in business rates early next year will be the last straw.”

Government help

According to McClarkin, pubs aren’t able to do their best work as they are under threat from “unfair” taxation through business rates and VAT, looming duty rises and extreme energy bills that are forcing publicans to make touch choices.

She added that under the right conditions, pubs have proven they are resilient, standing strong for centuries.

However, she said the sector “really needs” the Government to lay foundations to ensure pubs can serve their communities now and in the future.

For Alex Jay, Stewarts head of insolvency and asset recovery partner at law firm Alex Jay, the statistics were a “stark reminder” of the real state of the economy, despite talk of avoiding a technical recession.

Jay predicted there would be a knock on – vicious circle - effect too.

“This is another property generating no income for its landlord and drawing no customers to high streets already depleted by working from home practices,” he added.

Related topics Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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