Number of pubs in England and Wales falls to lowest on record

Factors including the devastating effect of the coronavirus pandemic and the current cost of living crisis have contributed to the number of pubs in England and Wales falling to the lowest level on record.

Number of pubs falls

Real estate consultancy Altus Group said that there were 39,970 pubs in England and Wales in June, down more than 7,000 venues since 2012.

Despite the sector continuing to shrink over the past decade, figures from the Office for National Statistics in 2019 showed that the industry expanded for the first time in 10 years.

Sadly, it seems that the coronavirus pandemic and current cost of living crisis have brought that progress to a resounding halt. Rolling lockdowns and limited trading had a devastating impact on hospitality during the pandemic peaks in 2020 and 2021, while soaring energy costs and sky-high prices are the latest challenge the industry faces.

Altus Group said that 400 pubs in England and Wales closed last year, while 200 have shut up shop in the first half of 2022, as the effects of inflation begin to bite.

“Whilst pubs proved remarkably resilient during the pandemic, they’re now facing new headwinds grappling with the cost of doing business in a crisis through soaring energy costs, inflationary pressures and tax rises.” Said Robert Hayton, head of Altus in the UK.

Altus’ research found that the West Midlands had lost the most pubs in the first half of this year, with 28 closing their doors.

London and the East of England were the next hardest hit, with each losing 24 venues.

CEO of UK Hospitality Kate Nicholls said of the news:

“These figures are truly shocking but will come as no surprise to many in the industry. The overwhelming burden of taxation – particularly business rates – and red tape will have proved too much for many licensees.

“The pandemic intensified the distress that many business owners were facing, and in many cases business support was not enough to keep them afloat. While these are pub closures, there has been similar – sometimes worse – levels of closure across restaurants, nightclubs and broader hospitality.

“The current economic crisis increases the chances of further decline, with soaring costs in energy, food and drink, a higher VAT rate, falling consumer confidence and an acute labour shortage. For businesses struggling to repay Covid-related debt this could simply be too much.

“We need the Government to take urgent steps to remove barriers to growth, help to tackle the cost crisis we’re facing and support more people into work and training. Without this help, we could see thousands more pubs lost from their communities in the next few years.”

Recent research conducted by UK Hospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping found that just one third of UK hospitality businesses are turning a profit. You can read more on that story here.

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