Daily Archives: 16/05/2015

Time at the bar: can Britain’s pubs survive?

This was a news story in The Telegraph pre Budget and looks at whether pubs can survive when figures suggest they are currently closing at a rate of 29 a week.

Can British Pubs survive?
Can British Pubs survive?

The pub industry is going through a shake-up, spurred on by recent government legislation to scrap the controversial “beer tie” system and allow pub landlords tied to big chains to buy beer on the open market.

The decision to alter the relationship between large pubcos and tenants followed a difficult decade for the pub industry in which the number of public houses in Britain dropped from 58,200 in 2006 to just 48,000 last year, a fall of 18pc.

Pub landlords hope they will be thrown another life raft in next week’s Budget, with some speculating that the Government may cut beer duty by 1p for the third consecutive year.

The Campaign for Real Ale lobby group, which supports a cut in beer tax, estimates that 1,047 pubs have been saved in the past two years as a result of the Government’s decision to scrap the beer duty escalator and cut beer duty in 2013 and 2014.

“At a time when there is concern about the number of people drinking excessively at home, the importance of pubs as places where you can drink responsibly in a social and community setting cannot be overstated,” said Camra’s chief executive Tim Page.

Britain’s pub industry has suffered for a number of reasons: increased competition from supermarkets selling cheap drink, heavy taxes on alcohol and the smoking ban have all played their part.

It has also had to contend with changing social trends: per capita consumption of alcohol has declined by 18pc since 2004, according to a recent report by think tank The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).

Despite the industry’s woes, many landlords are finding innovative ways of pulling in the punters.

Peter Borg-Neal, the founder of Oakman Inns, which operates 10 pubs in market towns across Hertfordshire, Buckingham and Oxfordshire, says pubs that are thriving have managed to expand their offerings to appeal to as many people as possible.

“We’re open all day, serving coffee, food and offering free wifi. It means we are used by all sorts of people in the town. In the mornings we might have an NCT [National Childbirth Trust] group here, business people for lunch, and later people come in for a drink after work.”

Now owning 10 pubs, with three more due to open this year, Mr Borg-Neal says he aims to appeal to everyone within walking distance or a 20-minute drive of an Oakman.

Although I no longer drink alcohol I am not anti-pubs, in fact my father-in-law is a retired publican who still owns a freehouse.  I like that the Oakman Inns are catering to all markets by widening their offering.  I will happily go sit and socialise in a pub, even if no food is on offer, providing there is a good range of alcohol free options for me to imbibe 🙂

How bout you?