More than 900 pubs vanished from communities in Britain last year, as the industry was hit by intense cost pressures and business rate increases.
A total of 914 pubs disappeared in 2018, according to the real estate data company Altus Group’s annual review, due to be released this week.
About 76 pubs vanished each month during the year, although this represents a slowdown in decline from 2017. The total number of pubs in England and Wales, liable for business rates, was 41,536 on 1 January 2019, representing a fall of 1,530 since a controversial revaluation came into force in April 2017.
The chief executive of UK Hospitality, Kate Nicholls, said: “Pubs are being hit with a myriad of cost pressures at a time of unprecedented political uncertainty and unstable consumer confidence. Unless positive action is taken by the government to address crippling costs, more pubs will be forced out of business.”
This month, the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said business rate increases were forcing publicans to lay off staff, increase prices and hold off investment.
A survey of 650 licensees by the pub campaign group found that three out of four believed the system was unfair to pubs. The chief executive of Camra, Tom Stainer said: “Since the last business rates revaluation in 2017, it has been clear that the system simply isn’t working for publicans.”
However, the rate at which pubs are vanishing, either through demolition or conversion for other uses such as homes or offices, eased significantly, according to the new data. In the seven years prior to the change in business rates, the number of pubs in the UK dived from 54,674 to 43,066.
In 2017, 1,292 pubs disappeared from the high street at a rate of more than 100 pubs each month.
The president of Altus Group, Alex Probyn, said: “The increase in the thresholds at which businesses, such as pubs, pay business rates coupled with the pubs discount during the last two financial years has helped ease the decline. The new retail discount, which slashed rates bills by a third for high street firms with a rateable value less than £51,000 from 1 April, will help independent licensees in small premises and hopefully will stem the decline even further.”
A government spokesman said: “The great British pub has been at the heart of most communities for generations and they support thousands of jobs. We recently announced £188,000 for our Pub is the Hub programme to provide advice and support for rural pubs to help them diversify and expand their offer to customers.
“We have also slashed business rates by a third for the majority of smaller business, including eligible pubs.”