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End of Alcohol Tax Freeze Piles Pressure on Operators

The latest research by finance specialists, RIFT, reveals that some parts of Britain have seen as many as 69 local pubs close their doors in the past two years, a situation that could be made even worse when the freeze on alcohol tax ends on 1st August.

The traditional British boozer is quickly becoming extinct and with a freeze on alcohol tax due to end this August, the number of pubs found across Britain could be set to decline even further over the coming years.

To understand how the recent years of economic turmoil in Britain has impacted the pub industry, RIFT has analysed the changing number of outlets up and down the country between 2020 and 2022.

The top level data shows that despite the Government handing pubs a lifeline in the form of an alcohol tax freeze in the August 2020 budget, the number of pubs across Britain has remained largely static over the last two years, increasing by just 164 nationwide.

This tax freeze hasn’t been enough to halt the worrying decline in pub numbers across many areas and in London, the number of pubs has fallen by -33, from 4,366 in 2020 to 4,333 in 2022.

There are also fewer pubs in Scotland (-20), the South West (-14), and East of England (-11) when compared to just two years ago.

However, this regional overview doesn’t highlight the full extent of the dwindling pub trade in Britain, and when analysing the nation at local authority level, the severity of this decline becomes all the more apparent.

In fact, as many as 161 local authorities across the nation now have fewer pubs when compared to 2020 and nowhere more so than in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, where there are now 69 fewer pubs open for business.


Bradley Post, MD of RIFT, commented:

“As a nation of pub lovers, we often measure economic ups and downs by the patronage we give our public houses and the rate at which they open or close. Pubs provide a good indicator of how freely the public is spending money, and whether or not they feel wealthy enough to splash the cash on the relative luxury of social drinking.

“It’s no surprise, therefore, to see the number of establishments falling across large swathes of Britain in the past two years, firstly due to COVID and then the current economic troubles stemming from the likes of the mini-budget and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

“That’s why it’s particularly concerning to think that a further hike in alcohol tax is on its way in August when the current freeze thaws. The government might think that increasing the tax will help lift the nation’s economic burden, but it also risks pushing even more people away from the pub, destroying small businesses, and further damaging our local economies.” 

“Perhaps a better idea would be to reduce the taxes and allow pubs to draw more people in, spending more money and helping the economy tick along at a greater speed.”