Britain’s pubs are disappearing fast – more than a quarter have called last orders for the final time since 2000.
Most at risk are small independent pubs – particularly those on city outskirts, according to a report by the Office of National Statistics. Drinkers have moved pubs, rather than give up and large commercial chain venues have grown in number.
The ONS says that the number of pubs has fallen from 52,500 in 2001 to 38,815. The figures, from a report titled Economies of Ale, highlight the well-documented decline of an industry struggling with changing consumer habits, tax rises and wage increases.
Brigid Simmonds, the chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), said: “Unless more is done to help alleviate the cost pressures pubs face … they will continue to close, and jobs will be lost.”
She welcomed the freeze in beer duty announced in the budget last month, but pointed out that it rose by 42% between 2008 and 2013 – a period in which beer sales fell by 24% and 5,000 pubs closed.
The shift towards larger pubs, which need more staff, means the number of people employed in the industry is about 450,000 – roughly the same as in 2001. Spending on drinks over the same period has stayed steady, even allowing for inflation.
The ONS found that the number of jobs in pubs dipped during the economic downturn. However, employment in the sector picked up subsequently and there are now 6% more jobs in pubs and bars than there were in 2008.
The largest increases have been in bigger pubs (those with 10 or more employees). This may be because serving food requires more waiting and kitchen staff.