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Number of pubs in the UK rises for the first time in 10 years

The UK’s pub sector could be about to recover from decades of decline, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

(Photo: iStock)

The number of pubs in the UK increased by 320 this year, compared to the average yearly decline of around 700 since 2010, according to a Freedom of Information request sent to the ONS.

It is the first time the ONS has recorded a rise in public houses in almost a decade, according to Edinburgh-based hospitality software firm Stampede, which analysed the data.

The UK has lost 732 pubs per year on average since 2010, so the boost this year represents a swing of nearly 1,000 compared to this. The biggest increase (+205) came from pub enterprises with a turnover of between £500,000 and £1,000,000, and the second biggest increase (+125) was in the £1 million to £2 million bracket.

Sadly England is almost solely accountable for this growth, which is not seen elsewhere. It saw a net gain of +345 compared to Scotland (-5) Wales (-25) and Northern Ireland (+5) which were all relatively stable.

Pubs’ turnover and employment rates are also up, driven by the growth of large pub chains such as JD Wetherspoon, which announced yesterday plans to invest £200 million in new sites over the next four years.

There are now a total of 39,145 pubs in the UK – based on businesses classified by the Standard Industrial Classification code as public houses and bars.

In 2014, the rate of pub closures hit a high of 29 per week. Since then, a number of initiatives have been launched by CAMRA alongside MPs to ease the rate of decline in the on-trade, but the pressure on the industry remains high.

“The pub trade has had very little to celebrate in the last decade,” said Patrick Clover, Stampede founder and CEO.

Clover said the sector’s decline “has been heart-breaking, following devastating changes to business taxes and alcohol duties, but I hope these figures signpost a reversal of fortunes.

However, the report said that, given the large number of reports suggesting beer sales are in decline, this turnaround has “little to do with people drinking more.”

Former chancellor Phillip Hammond implemented business rate relief policies for some pubs during his time in office, while community groups have also been encouraged to to buy and manage their own public houses and save them from closure. Meanwhile, other companies such as Brewhouse & Kitchen have invested in improved food offerings and experiential packages for guests, while other sites have started offering accommodation, and even setting up post offices, to drive up footfall and increase sales.

“More pubs now offer food, accommodation and a greater variety of weekday events to maximise profits,” the report said, adding that pub owners “can no longer afford to rely on the same old regulars to keep coming through the door.”

Read more:

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