The number of UK pubs and bars grew in 2019 the first growth in ten years, kindling hopes of a turnaround in fortunes for Britain’s pub trade.
New figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that there was a net gain of 320 pubs for 2019.
England was the main driver with an increase of 345 sites, Northern Ireland gained five pubs and bars, however, Scotland and Wales both posted decreases.
The positive figures mark the first time the UK has enjoyed a net gain in drinking establishments following a decade of decline. Between 2010 and 2018 a staggering 5,855 pubs closed their doors, an average of 732 per year.
“The reduction of pubs over the last decade has been heart-breaking, following devastating changes to business taxes and alcohol duties, but I hope these figures signpost a reversal of fortunes,” said Patrick Clover, chief executive of Leith-based hospitality industry software firm Stampede, which analysed the ONS figures.
Stampede said the change may be down to pubs realising they can no longer rely on the “same old regulars”, instead improving their food menus, offering accommodation and events such as live music.
Stampede have also calculated that the increase in pubs and bars over the last year could have created up to 9,000 new jobs and generated additional revenue of as much as £740m.
“The pub trade has had very little to celebrate in the last decade, but I’m sure they’ll raise a glass to these new numbers,” said Patrick Clover, Stampede founder and chief executive.
“Pubs have a hugely important place in our society both socially as well as economically, being one of the UK’s biggest employers.”
Nik Antona, chairman of real ale enthusiasts’ group Camra, said: “We welcome this data that shows a slight increase in the number of open pubs nationally.
“Unfortunately pubs continue to close, particularly in small or rural communities. This means the loss of the social, cultural and economic benefits that come with a well run local.”
“To ensure pubs survive and thrive, they need a fair tax system and stability going forward.”
A spokesperson for the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said: “We would cautiously welcome any good news for pubs, however our own data suggests a higher base of pubs, and has shown higher closure rates for the last five years.
“If people want to see pubs flourish, policy makers need to create the right environment for them to grow.”