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Editor’s Viewpoint: Licensing Act – Ten Years On

bar-406884_640I noted with great interest the comments made by British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), chief executive, Brigid Simmonds regarding the 10th anniversary of the Licensing Act.

I think most people would agree that the act itself has been an overwhelming success, when I think back to the old regime pubs closing at 10.30/11 o’clock people being herded out onto the streets all at the same time, it really is difficult to imagine how we put up with it for so long. As Ms. Simmons says, the prophets of doom predicting increases and antisocial behaviour and alcohol related health problems associated with 24-hour drinking simply did not materialise.

However, the decline of the British pub has accelerated. A report that I read recently was rather grim reading – since 1980 the UK has lost 21,000 pubs, half of them have gone since 2006. The licensing act came into force in November 2005, so it is difficult to see any positive impact the act has had in stemming pub closures.

I am sure there are a combination of causes – taxation, increased regulation, smoking ban, a changing culture to drinking at home, the duty escalator when it was in force – all will have played their part. However, I believe taxation to be the chief reason. Drinking become less affordable year-on-year. In 2008 the then government increased alcohol duty by 6% in real terms, introduced alcohol duty escalator, and a VAT was raised in 2011, from 15% to 20%.
British drinkers pay 40% of the EU’s total alcohol duty bill. A truly ludicrous amount compared to other countries.

As readers are well aware, we have been lobbying for a reduction in taxation in the hospitality industry for several years now, and when I went to Paris and the weekend November 13 it was partly a fact-finding mission to see how successful the reduction in hospitality taxation in France had been. Unfortunately, the terrible events which took place that weekend meant I was unable to obtain the views and opinions of hotel/cafe/bar operators.

I very much hope to return in the not too distant future to obtain real concrete views on the subject, statistics I have seen prove that the continental approach to hospitality taxation has been an overwhelming success, and, unless we can really lobby the government to take similar action pub closures will continue.

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