The number of pubs in England and Wales that shut their doors for good rose sharply in the first half of 2023, prompting warnings to the government that planned rises in business rates could force further closures in the beleaguered sector.
Figures show that 383 pubs, or more than two a day, “vanished” in the first six months of this year, almost matching the total for the whole of 2022, when 386 were lost.
However Chanceller Jeremy Hunt, hoped today might bring a little cheer to the sector as he announced that he will freeze all alcohol duty covering beer, wine and spirits until August 1 next year.
The chancellor said that he knew that “going to the pub had become more expensive” and that he had listened to the “persuasive arguments” that had been made to him, including naming one of his local Surrey Councillors Jane Austin as being a huge ‘advocate for her local Jolly Farmer’.
Speaking about the news, British Institute of Innkeeping, CEO, Steve Alton said: “We welcome the news that Business Rates relief for the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure sectors will be continued at 75% for 24/25, in line with our consistent calls on Government for ongoing support in this area.
“We also welcome the freeze on alcohol duty, not putting further pressure on top of embedded cost increases that our sector has been facing over the last few years.
“Today’s statement from the Chancellor offers some much-needed support for many of our members, all of whom are facing the most challenging and critical times for their businesses. However, as small businesses at the heart of their communities, many run by independent operators, the rise in the national living wage to £11.44 per hour will hugely impact the profitability of their venues. Whilst we welcome measures that protect workers, there must be recognition of the impact this mandated increase will have on our small pub businesses.
“We would like to thank all of our members who took the time to write to their MPs as part of our #MyPub campaign launched in the summer, calling for support from the Chancellor. Your voices have been invaluable in supporting our engagement with Government, making the case for this vital further support.”