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UK pub closures hit 28 a week

By thirsty hack Ignatius Rake

Posted March 03, 2014
booze news

Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) calls on government to establish Pubs Watchdog, close planning loopholes and freeze beer duty.

According to stats gathered from the latest CGA-CAMRA Pub Tracker for the period April-December 2013, the rate of net pub closures in the UK rose from 26 to 28 per week.

In response, CAMRA, a press release states, "is calling on the government to press ahead with plans for a Pubs Watchdog to ensure a fair power balance between the large pub companies ['pubcos'] and their licensees".

The tied pub model, it continues, "has come under increased criticism as recent research1 suggests a shocking 57% of licensees tied to the big pub companies earn less than £10,000 [$16,734] a year" compared to just 25% of free-of-tie lessees.

The latest closure figures also show that leased and tenanted pubs account for 16 of the 28 pub closures occurring every week2, "supporting the need for urgent action to address rents and beer prices charged by the large pub companies".

"Pubs are unnecessarily closing as tied licensees struggle to make their businesses succeed thanks to increased rents and inflated beer prices," says CAMRA CEO Mike Benner.

"It is vital that the government step in to redress the balance with the implementation of an independent Pubs Watchdog and an option for licensees of large pub companies to opt for market-rent-only agreements, allowing them to buy beer on the open market at cheaper prices."

However, as previously reported on the pages of the Rake & Herald, pubs are also under threat from planning loopholes that allow for their quick conversion into a supermarkets and the like.

"It is currently possible to convert a pub into a betting shop, pay-day loan store or supermarket without the need for planning permission, making it far too easy for valued community pubs to be lost," Benner states.

"We are pressing the government to act to close this planning loophole."

A further reason for pub closures, CAMRA says, is the rate of duty charged on beer, noting that last week more than 5,000 CAMRA members contacted their MP to call for beer duty to be frozen in next month's Budget.

"Britons pay the second highest rate of beer duty in the European Union, which puts the pubs sector under pressure," Benner continues.

"We were delighted when the Chancellor cut beer duty in last year's Budget and are urging him to build on this with a freeze or further reduction this year."

See also Stop supermarket pub conversions, posted 6/2/14.

Ignatius Rake
is a freelance journalist and geographer who has visited more than 70 countries on six continents. A published lyricist, he has fronted punk bands in both the UK and Poland, including the only band ever to be kicked off BBC Radio Cornwall. In 2013, he represented the UK at the Fourth Annual Smoke's Poutinerie World Poutine Eating Championship in Toronto, coming an abysmal last and getting his arse royally whipped by Rake & Herald reader and world speedscarfing supremo Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut. He has been known to like a pint.


1) Figures based on the Pubco Licensee Survey Report produced for CAMRA by CGA Strategy, June 2013.

2) According to the CGA-CAMRA Pub Tracker, one managed pub (viz a pub that is part of a chain of five or more venues with common ownership and management) closed each week during the period under review. This compares to 11 free/independent free trade (IFT) pubs every week (viz pubs owned and operated by an individual) and 16 non-managed (leased and tenanted) pubs (viz pubs owned by a pubco or regional brewer and operated by an individual or business under a lease or tenancy agreement).

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