Despite the new research showing that the rate of pub closures has decreased from the record rate of 52 closures every week in 2009, the consumer group has expressed particular concern that Government policy is failing communities on the outskirts of Britain’s towns and cities, with half of these closures taking occurring in the suburbs.
Mike Benner, Camra chief executive, said: “While high street city-centre venues are showing a degree of resistance in the current climate, both suburban and rural areas are under threat as wholesale pub closures deprive more local people of a community centre.
“Pubs are vital for social cohesion and cultural integration, and therefore the Government must act swiftly to repair the damage inflicted upon local communities by offering genuine support for enterprising and hard-working licensees.”
In just 2 years, 1,078 pubs have been lost in suburban areas, with many community locals battered by whirlwind beer tax hikes and deep alcohol discounting from nearby supermarket chains. Meanwhile, pubs in rural Britain and in high streets are closing are a rate of six and two per week respectively.
Benner added: “This research further underlines the major problems caused by many hard-working pub lessees being unable to buy their beer on the open market, restricted by punitive measures imposed by greedy pub companies.
“The number of tied pubs has fallen by over 3,500 in just 3 years, with free-of-tie pubs remaining better-placed to weather these difficult economic times by having the ability to offer greater beer choice and lower prices to the consumer.”
Today’s figures coincide with a ground-breaking new report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) into the social value of community pubs. The report reinforces Camra’s figures by highlighting the need for a radical change in Government policy that recognises the important community function many pubs perform.
IPPR Associate Director, Rick Muir, added: “The Government must stop using a one-size-fits-all approach to licensed premises which is killing off our community pubs. Instead responsible well-run community pubs should be encouraged and supported.
“Our research shows community pubs aren’t just places to drink but also places where people meet their neighbours; where local clubs hold meetings and events; and which support many important local services such as village post offices and general stores.”
Recommended measures to provide vital support include business rate relief for pubs acting as ‘centres of a community’, reform of planning laws which prevent pubs from being demolished without the need for planning permission, and improving relations between large pub companies and their lessees to offer a guest beer option and an option to become ‘free of tie’ accompanied by an open market rent review.