Latest figures released by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) show that the rate of pub closures has increased by a third in the first half of 2009, up from 39 pubs a week in the last six months of 2008.
The BBPA attributes the closures in part to the recession, but also to the 20 per cent increase in beer tax the industry has seen in the past two years, which has added £600m onto its overall tax bill.
Mike Long, chief executive of the BBPA, said the scale of job losses in the sector was being overlooked by the government, and claimed it should do more to listen to the needs of the pub industry.
“Every week, a further 461 jobs are lost in our sector. That’s more than two Mini car plants a month,” he said. “Government now needs to listen to the pub sector in the same way it listens to other sectors suffering this level of job losses. Not special treatment, just equitable treatment. As a first step, Government should commit to not increasing the cost and complexity of running a pub, by stepping back from any more tax or red-tape increases.”
In April, Chancellor Alistair Darling announced plans to continue with the government’s beer tax escalator, which would see a two per cent above inflation rise in beer tax in March 2010. In addition, the pub industry is facing a £30m red tape bill when the Mandatory Code of Practice comes into force.
“While every other sector seems to receive a sympathetic ear and a tax payer funded handout from Government to tide them through the downturn, all we are getting is a deaf ear and a higher tax bill.”
Around 5,134 pubs have closed in the last three years, most of which have been community pubs that are closing at a rate of 40 per week. However, branded pubs and café-style bars are bucking the trend and opening at a rate of two a week, while food-led pubs continue to survive the recessionary cull.