For tourists, pubs are as much a part of England as the Queen or left-hand traffic. A visit is often part of the program. But the Brits are less and less driven to the bars – of which there are fewer and fewer.
More and more pubs in England are ringing the famous final order bell for the last time. “Last orders!” is the motto not only for guests at the counter, but also for the pubs themselves.
The number of pubs in England and Wales fell below 40,000 in the first half of the year, analysis by property consultants Altus Group has revealed. That’s 7,000 fewer than a decade ago and above all: fewer restaurants than ever before.
Pub dying started a long time ago
The sharp decline is surprising. After all, pubs are considered the soul of the community. This is where friends and families meet for the Sunday Roast, where colleagues and sports groups treat themselves to a pint or maybe two after a hard day’s work.
If you want to have an after-work beer in central London on a Thursday afternoon, it takes a long time to get through the crowds to the bar. An English village is more likely to have a pub than a church or a shop – at least that’s the impression many tourists have. A visit to the pub is also part of the program for many visitors.
But the numbers paint a different picture, a rather dramatic one. The pub dying started a long time ago, the corona pandemic has only strengthened the trend. The reasons are manifold: the smoking ban, cheap alcohol in the supermarket or changed drinking habits.
In addition, landlords complain about the beer taxes, which are among the highest in the world. Recently, the pubs have also been hit by strikes on the British railways, there were fewer commuters and nobody was strolling through the city centres. That cost him 25 percent of his earnings, said Clive Watson, founder of London’s City Pub Group.
Increased costs a big problem
Above all, however, business is being hampered by massive inflation – it has risen to its highest level in decades. The cost of energy and goods have exploded. As determined by the industry associations British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), British Institute of Innkeeping and UK Hospitality, only a good third (37 percent) of the businesses are profitable. “As an industry, we have just weathered the toughest two years in living memory and are now faced with the challenge of skyrocketing costs,” said BBPA chief Emma McClarkin.
Instead of leasing pubs, owners have them converted into apartments or offices. The areas are often centrally located and therefore extremely attractive. According to Altus figures, around 200 pubs in England and Wales have disappeared since the end of 2021 alone.
The industry is now demanding state aid again – also because Corona support such as lower VAT rates and frozen commercial property taxes ended. “It is vital that we get relief to ease that pressure or we risk losing more pubs year after year,” she said.
“If pubs are forced to close, there is a huge loss to local communities,” McClarkin said. As early as spring 2021, the think tank Localis also referred to the central role of pubs for the communities. For many people, going to the pub is an opportunity to leave their home and meet friends and neighbors. In other words, loneliness and social isolation would be avoided. Localis warned that if pubs were to be lost, especially in rural areas, this could endanger the social fabric.