According to statistics conducted by the British government, reported on by the BBC, on average, two pubs disappear in England and Wales every day. Between January and June 2023, 383 pubs were either demolished or converted into something else, such as housing or office space.
In August, exactly 39,404 pubs remained in England and Wales, a number that probably keeps on dropping. The problem isn’t exactly new, with England’s oldest pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, closing at the beginning of last year and the United Kingdom’s ‘wonkiest’ pub, The Crooked House, being demolished in August.
With pubs being a true national symbol within the British borders and beyond, one might ask how is it possible that so many are closing their doors? Chris Miles, who owns the Fleece, in Richmond, North Yorkshire, explained for the BBC why he decided to sell his business a few months back.
“It’s a three-way squeeze. VAT is the single biggest problem, a fifth of the money we generate we have to pay to HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs). My last bill was £26,000 (€30,000) – and that’s for a business that’s never made a profit. We don’t want hand-outs or grants, we just want to keep more of the money we generate.” Beside taxation, he pointed to staffing and running costs as the biggest issues.
Moreover, because of the financial situation at this moment, many people don’t find themselves in a position to go to a pub for a drink and therefore, according to the Evening Standard, pubs find themselves lacking customers.
As far as problem solving goes, the UK govenrment implemented a tax relief of 11 pence on draught drinks served in pubs on August 1. However, duty on non-draught beer rose in August and the initiative therefore isn’t enough to really help pub owners. Alex Probyn, the president of property tax at Altus Group, now asks Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to take further action.
“With energy costs up 80% year-on-year in a low-growth, high-inflation and high-interest rates environment, the last thing pubs need is an average business rates hike of £12,385 next year,” Probyn said referring to the 6% business rates increase expected for next year due to inflation.