UK: Pub closures slow down

04 February, 2010

Pubs are now closing at a rate of 39 a week, down on the 52 a week closure rate in the first half of 2009, according to the latest survey from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

A net total of 1,013 pubs shut their doors for the last time between July and December 2009, with the loss of over 10,000 jobs in local communities across Britain.  A total of 2,365 pubs closed during the whole of 2009.

Although the latest figures are slightly down, closures remain at historically high levels, according to the BBPA. There are now 52,500 pubs in Britain – down on the 58,600 pubs operating when the Licensing Act came into force in 2005. In addition to the loss of pubs, the Government is set to lose over £250 million in tax revenues this year, if the current closure level continues – said the BBPA.

The slowing rate of closure is a sign that things may be starting to improve, the BBPA said.  However, significant pressures on the sector remain.  The BBPA warned that Government should be seeking ways to avoid intensifying those burdens.  The tax burden remains a key issue. Government plans for another above inflation increase in beer tax in the forthcoming Budget will be a further blow to struggling licensed premises. 

While all types of pub are closing, in the second half of 2009, the number of independently owned ‘free houses’ fell more rapidly than the number of pubs in the leased and tenanted sector. There were 576 closures among free houses (22 a week), compared with 320 among tenanted pubs (12 a week), despite the latter being far more numerous overall – the remainder of closures are among managed pubs (117 in total at a rate of five a week). The survey also revealed that a significant number of pubs were sold into the free trade, with 735 being transferred into free house ownership from July to December 2009.

The survey also confirmed that ‘food led’ pubs are continuing to weather the current storm better than drink led premises, with a closure rate of just 0.6 per cent in that category (130 pubs). The closure rate among drink led pubs was over three times higher, at 2.1 per cent, or 883 net closures.

“The UK economy may be edging out of recession, but times remain very tough for pubs,” said Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the Beer & Pub Association.

“Continuing pub closures, and the five per cent per cent decline in pub beer sales we reported last week, confirm that pubs are not out of the woods yet. In the current climate, the last thing pubs need is a higher tax bill in the Budget. This won’t help the public finances either, as closing pubs, job losses and falling beer sales mean less tax revenue for the Treasury.”

“Pubs make a significant and valuable contribution to both the national economy and community life.  It’s time for Government to work with our industry and put into practice policies that support pubs and local communities.”

With concerns about the future of many pubs still high, the BBPA is urging the public to get behind its new ‘I’m Backing the Pub’ campaign. To help ensure a more prosperous future for Britain’s much-loved locals, supporters can sign up at <>