Two thousand of the nation’s much-loved pubs are facing last orders, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has warned as it calls on the Government to extend a lifeline to the sector.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) is calling on the Government to use the Spring Budget to show it understands just how much pubs and breweries mean to their communities, and the pressures the sector is facing, and deliver a plan for sustainable growth with fair, modernised tax rates and a focus on skills and training needed to ensure pubs and breweries can thrive.
The BBPA are calling on the Chancellor to freeze duty rates, implement a significant increase in the discount for draft beer sold in pubs, and introduce the previously announced reduced rate for lower-strength beers from 1st August.
And ahead of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme being significantly reduced from 1 April, the BBPA is also continuing to highlight the poor practice of energy suppliers and the ongoing impact soaring energy costs is having on the industry, insisting that the Government holds suppliers accountable and fix a broken system that is penalizing hospitality businesses.
The BBPA’s call comes as data from Oxford Economics estimates on-trade beer sales will decline by 9% in 2023/4. This equates to one million fewer barrels of beer sold (288 million pints) and 25,000 potential job losses in pubs and the wider industry.
It also follows a new survey that reveals just how much Brits value their beloved locals – with venues up and down the country celebrated as spaces that provide first jobs, form friendships, bring communities together and help people find love.
69% of respondents agreed that local pubs play an important role in bringing communities together, while over two thirds (67%) say they play an important role in creating jobs. Six in 10 of us (60%) are concerned about an increase in loneliness if more local pubs close down, whilst 42% agree that closure of their local pub would devastate their community.
In what’s being termed a make-or-break moment for the sector, the BBPA are also encouraging those interested in supporting their local pub to sign their Long Live the Local petition at longlivethelocal.pub and share their favourite pub memories across social media using #LongLiveTheLocal
Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, Emma McClarkin, said: “It is crucial the Government shows in this budget that it understands the pressures the sector is facing and just how much our pubs and breweries mean to communities everywhere across the UK.
“We urgently need the Chancellor to deliver a plan for sustainable growth with fair, modernised tax rates and a focus on skills and training needed to ensure pubs and breweries can thrive.
“After almost three years of extremely tough trading conditions due to lockdowns, an energy crisis, supply chain disruptions and more, now is a make-or-break moment to save our locals and breweries from failure now in the years to come, we need the Government to act now or risk losing something very special forever.”
Joanne Farrell, who has run the Windsor Castle near Stockport for over 15 years, said she has resorted to installing a wood burner to save on bills, hoovering in the dark and lighting candles where possible to avoid using too much electricity. She detailed how she’s worried that if people don’t use their local pubs they will close for good and these special places at the heart of their communities will be lost forever.
Emma Shepherd who runs The Blue Ball Inn in Worrall, Yorkshire, said her fixed rate electricity contract is due to end in just under a month’s time and she is struggling to find a new provider, with one quoting a standing charge rate that would be a 1000%+ increase on what she currently pays. She describes herself as passionate about keeping the pub open at the heart of the community, where it regularly raises money for local good causes, and hosts events and opportunities for local people to come together, from coffee mornings to dementia friendly days.
Anthony Pender, from the historic Somerstown Coffee House in London, a pub with with a special interest in serving brilliant ales and British seafood, said, “In January my gas bill was 4,800 and we had £1,600 government relief. Similar bills were generally around £800 prior to increases. Without relief and at full business rates we would lose money as a venue.”
Keris de Villiers, of the Pig & Whistle in Wandsworth, said in 10 years of running the pub she has never found it so difficult to turn a profit. She said, “we got through Covid, but the cost of living crisis is worse… costs on everything across our business from energy to ingredients have rocketed.”
These stories are by no means outliers. With cost pressures and slowing consumer spend, combined with a further duty increase in August, the sector is grappling with the significant fear of widespread closures. Further concern comes from the current Energy Bill Relief Scheme support ending on 31st of March, meaning many pubs and breweries will again be subject to rocketing bills that threaten to them to declare last orders once and for all.