The alarming rate of pub closings across England and Wales has spurred public concern, as it was reported that two establishments have shuttered daily for the first half of the year. A collected total of 383 establishments have met their demise or faced repurposing from January to June, with the numbers hinting at an escalating trend. The previous quarter documented the loss of 153 pubs, a figure far surpassed by the staggering 230 pub closures that occurred in the three months concluding on June 30.
These distressing statistics have ignited debate, urging revisions to planning laws to safeguard the future of pubs. The issue was sharply brought into focus when the Crooked House pub in the West Midlands, fondly renowned as the nation’s most eccentric establishment, tragically succumbed to a fire and was subsequently razed without necessary approvals last August. The incident stirred discontent far beyond the immediate community, giving fuel to the campaign for pub preservation.
The situation remains grim, when considering the entire spectrum of pubs both in operation and those standing vacant or up for lease. The count has dwindled down to 39,404 pubs as of June’s end, a demoralizing dip as declared by research conducted by commercial real estate experts Altus Group. The misery is particularly felt in Wales, where 52 pubs were lost in the first half of the year. London and the North West also suffered, each reporting a loss of 46 pubs.
The accumulated total of pub losses in England and Wales for 2022 has culminated to a depressing count of 386. Experts predict a bleak future if there is no intervention. Alex Probyn, a top executive at Altus Group, has urged government officials, notably Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, to leverage the upcoming autumn statement in November to alleviate the weighty burden of business rates on the pub sector.
Currently, several types of firms including pubs fall under the business rates net, with anticipated rate hikes linked to inflation set to arrive next April barring governmental interference. Forecasts warn of bill rises exceeding 6% next year. Probyn elaborated on the bitterness of this pill to swallow, remarking on the burden of business rates adding a crushing £12,385 to the average yearly total on top of rocketing energy costs in the sector.
Although a 75% reduction in their business rates bills for the 2023-2024 tax year is currently provided to pubs, along with other qualifying hospitality, leisure, and retail operations, this grace period is due to conclude come March 2024.
The Campaign for Pubs, a dedicated advocate for pub promotion, protection, and support on a national level, sheds light on another disturbing trend. Even thriving pubs are not safe, falling prey to landlords eager to turn a quick profit by repurposing or razing pub locations for housing developments. The group now stresses the urgency of governmental action, emphasizing the need for stricter penalties for unlicensed conversions and demolitions.