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Young landlords lead UK pub growth

The UK pub industry looks like it could have a new lease of life, as research has shown that nearly half of the country’s bars have been opened in the last three years.

Young landlords are becoming an increasingly common sight behind the bar, according to research (Photo: db)

In all, 42% of pub businesses in the UK were established between March 2012 and March 2015 – a statistic that helps to temper the fact that total numbers of pubs have been falling dramatically for years as it suggests that there is a new vigour in the industry.

Equally encouraging for the sector, which has suffered badly through the recession, is the fact that it is attracting young entrepreneurs who are more likely to innovate in their attempts to draw patrons away from at-home drinking and back into the pub.

Figures show that the number of pub owners aged 25 to 34 has risen by 25% since 2012, and that in total, one in five pubs are solely owned by a female landlord, helping to shake-off the out-dated image of pub owners.

The same research has shown that pub turnover has increased by almost a quarter, 23%, in the last three years, showing there is plenty of money in the new wave of pubs opening across the UK.

Analysts have hailed the innovators in the sector for driving this growth and helping to change the tone of the trade. Adam Rowse, head of business banking at Barclays, which carried out the research, said: “It’s been long-reported that this is an industry met by challenges for pub owners, however our research shows that this has not deterred the next generation of ‘pub innovators’ from setting up shop.

“It’s great to see optimism for growth within this sector. Beyond the headlines of pub closures, turnover growth and a rise of new businesses is encouraging.

“The UK’s pub businesses are a key part of Britain’s culture and heritage in addition to a valuable contributor to the economy,” he said.

Anecdotal evidence from young pub owners is similarly encouraging. Matt Hiscox, Owner, Carpenters Arms in Pontypool, said: “We’ve found by turning our business around to echo the demand of the public, we’ve managed to thrive and turnover has doubled.

“Years previously, turnover would be approximately 75% in drink sales, but today – and for the past four to five years – that same proportion of turnover has shifted to food sales.”

The focus on food sales is viewed as one factor helping to revive the pub trade, as the rise of the “gastropub” sees the demise of more traditional drinking dens.

This trend has led to reports that the old-fashioned pub could soon disappear from Britain altogether. At the London Wine Fair this week, Wine Intelligence published its Carpe Vinum report that warned the traditional boozer-style pubs that offer “choice over quality” could soon die out.

“Last century’s world of stand-up beer drinking in poorly lit and scruffy pubs is being pushed further to the margins, and may disappear entirely from urban centres over the next 5-10 years,” it said.

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