According to the latest CGA-Camra Pub Tracker, which covers the period of April-December 2013, leased and tenanted pubs account for 16 of the pub closures each week; free-of-tie venues account for 11 closures per week, while an average of one managed pub a week is also shutting up shop.
“Pubs are unnecessarily closing as tied licensees struggle to make their businesses succeed thanks to increased rents and inflated beer prices,” said Camra’s chief executive Mike Benner.
“It is vital that the Government step in to redress the balance with the implementation of an independent Pubs Watchdog and an option for licensees of large pub companies to opt for market rent-only agreements allowing them to buy beer on the open market at cheaper prices.”
This increase in pub closures comes as Camra is calling on the Government to press ahead with plans for the ‘Pubs Watchdog’ which would, in effect, ensure a fair power balance between the large pub companies and their licensees.
The tied pub model has come under increased criticism as recent research suggests that 57 per cent of licensees tied to the big pub companies earn less than £10,000 a year. But there are other reasons that pubs are shutting, including the threat from conversion to supermarkets or betting shops - something which Camra says needs to be urgently addressed.
“It is currently possible to convert a pub into a betting shop, pay-day loan store or supermarket without the need for planning permission, making it far too easy for valued community pubs to be lost,” added Benner. “We are pressing the Government to act to close this planning loophole.
Beer duty escalator
A further reason for pub closures is the rate of duty charged on beer. Last week over 5,000 Camra members contacted their MP to call for beer duty to be frozen in this year’s Budget. And today (3 March), the number of MPs supporting the call has reached the 100 milestone – making it the most supported tax measure among Early Day Motions in the UK.
The milestone follows a strong campaign from Britain’s pubs and brewers, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), Camra and SIBA - which includes the publication of a new report showing that 900,000 jobs now depend on beer and pubs.
Andrew Griffiths MP, the Burton MP and chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Beer Group, which has spearheaded the campaign in Parliament, said: “The Chancellor’s cut in beer duty last year was a historic, confidence-building measure for this vital sector. But with beer tax having risen by 42 per cent over the previous five years, more action is needed.
“It will take many years to undo the damage and at the very least, a freeze is needed. At very little cost, the Chancellor can protect 2,400 jobs in a great British industry. It is a win-win situation.”