Another day, another pub closes its doors for good – or, according to CAMRA’s figures, another day, another six pub closures.
Pub and bar closures are, of course, not news; large numbers of pubs, particularly in rural areas, have closed in the last few years. Many blame the introduction of the smoking ban, exaccerbated by substantial increases in the duty on beer, as a result of which prices have increased by well above the rate of inflation.
Given the economic conditions of the last couple of years many people have chosen to save their pennies by staying at home, rather than visiting their “local” for a drink, and those who have gone out may well have “tanked up” at home first, drinking cut-price alcohol bought from supermarkets. Some landlords had been hoping that a successful run for England in the World Cup and a hot summer would lead to an increase in business and see them through to Christmas. Some hope!
Most pubs are owned a pub companies who not only set the rent but also dictate the beer supplier, and for many tenanted pubs the “tie” has caused huge problems. Not only are the rents often unjustifiably high, certainly in current trading conditions, but also the suppliers’ prices are hugely inflated compared to market prices. There are reports of some pub companies acting quite ruthlessly to enforce the strict terms of the contracts.
The result is that a large number of tied pubs are simply not viable, and the pub companies rarely make much help available. That said, some pub companies are reported to have had their own financial problems, and have been forced into their own cash-raising exercises.
So is the pub industry doomed? Certainly diversification seems to help where it’s possible. Pubs with a good food offering tend to do less badly than those without, and some, especially rural pubs, are offering additional services such as becoming the local shop or post office, or providing other community facilities. But not all lend themselves to becoming gastro-pubs, and not all will be able to find additional services to offer.
Somehow pubs seem to be too much a part of the British way of life for them to be allowed to die out, but for many of them the tough times certainly aren’t over yet.
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