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UK pubs face ‘ticking time bomb’ as 28,000 closed since 1970s

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has warned that UK pubs are facing a “ticking time bomb” due to rising business rates, revealing that the number of pubs has reduced by a third since the 1970s.

CAMRA has announced in a report accompanying the launch of its Good Beer Guide that as many as 28,000 pubs have closed since it was founded in the 1970s, and when the total number of pubs in Britain totalled 75,000. The number is now less than 50,000 with more beer now consumed at home rather than in the pub.

The body has called the government’s new business rates, introduced in April this year, the latest “ticking time bomb to devastate the sector,” warning that UK pubs are facing significant increases in the amount of tax that they pay.

It cited the Baum in Rochdale, named national Pub of the Year in 2012, which will see its rateable value (the open market rental value on 1 April 2015, based on an estimate by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA)) rise by 377%. The Sandford Park Alehouse in Cheltenham, the 2015 pub of the year, is also facing a significant increase, this time of 181%.

Significantly, CAMRA has found that many out-of-town supermarkets and stores based on industrial estates saw their rates reduced following the revaluation in April, with town centre pubs bearing the brunt of the increases, a move, CAMRA says, “can only fuel the rate and level of pub closures”.

According to the official government website in the section entitled ‘Pubs and Licensed Trade,’ the rateable value is also determined based on the “annual level of trade (excluding VAT) that a pub is expected to achieve if operated in a reasonably efficient way”. The government refers to this as “fair maintainable trade” which is determined by the type of pub or premises, the area it is located in and the services it offers.

The Wonston Arms, one of the success stories, winning Local CAMRA Pub of the Year 2016 and 2017.

It also states that pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 will get business rates relief from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.

In March, as part of the budget, The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, announced that UK alcohol duty would rise with inflation, effectively ending a freeze that had protected beer and spirits from further duty increases.

CAMRA has now launched a campaign calling for an £5,000 annual reduction in business rates for every pub in England. Before the UK General Election in June this year, CAMRA encouraged candidates to ‘pledge for pubs’ and support both British pubs. Out of a total of 773 candidates that signed up, 130 were elected.

Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz said: “The British pub is unique, rooted in our island’s history, dating from Roman and Saxon times.”

“There is no better place for people to meet, enjoy a beer, strike up a conversation, make new friends and put the world to rights. Above all, the British pub, both ancient and modern, has character and an atmosphere that could never be replaced”.

Fiona Stapley, editor of the Good Pub Guide, recently stated that “the average rate of pub closures is 21 a week”.

A Government spokesman said: “The Great British pub is a national treasure and we’re backing communities that want to protect and run their local.”

“We’ve already provided more than 9,000 small pubs with a £1,000 discount on their businesses rates bill as part of our £435 million package of support for businesses.”

“In addition, both pubs and their customers have saved over £2 billion since 2013 thanks to changes to alcohol duty”.

CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide has now gone on sale and is available here. 

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