UK pub and bar numbers rise for first time in 10 years

The number of pubs and bars operating in the UK rose for the first time in a decade last year, according to analysis from the Office for National Statistics.

(Photo: iStock)

Last year saw the first rise in pub numbers since before the financial crisis, according to the ONS, driven by larger premises and improved food offerings.

Senior statistician Hugh Stickland said, while smaller pubs have been struggling to survive in recent years, “bigger pubs have been growing in number.”

While the total number of pubs fell from 51,120 to 39,130 between 2007 and 2019, total employment actually grew from 426,000 to 457,000 in the same space of time.

Stickland said this is largely due to pubs launching new and improving existing food menus, and hiring more kitchen staff in the process.

(Credit: ONS)

“This growth has been driven by food rather than drink and we’ve seen a big rise in the number of people employed as pub kitchen and waiting staff,” he said.

The share of pub employees working as bar staff fell from 37.6% in 2007 to 28.9% in 2019, while kitchen and waiting staff increased from 29.1% to 43.8%.

“The latest year, however, shows the first rise in total numbers since before the financial crisis, with growth in pubs of all sizes. We’ll have to wait to see if this marks a revival for smaller ‘locals’.”

Nik Antona, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said the figures could mean small pubs are starting to recover “after years of decline”, but warned that many still struggle, particularly in small or rural communities.

“This means the loss of the social, cultural and economic benefits that come with a well-run local.

“To ensure pubs survive and thrive, they need a fair tax system and stability going forward.

“CAMRA continues to call on the Government for a review of the business rates system, as was promised in the Conservative general election manifesto, and a lower rate of tax on beer sold in pubs. We urge that these asks are reflected in the forthcoming Budget to help save the great British pub.”

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