Last orders for England's pubs?

The Castle, Hinckley Thousands of pubs have closed in the past four years

The Castle pub in the Leicestershire town of Hinckley must have been a rather splendid establishment in its day.

Anyone heading into the town centre would have been attracted by its ornate gatework and alluring entrance.

Sadly, the corner pub is now boarded up and getting derelict day by day.

Start Quote

There was no need for planning permission and they didn't take into account the wishes of the local people”

End Quote Councillor David Inman Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council

Over the last four years 5,800 pubs - like the Castle - have closed down. Last year alone, pubs were shutting at a rate of 18 a week. That's according to Camra, the beer drinkers' consumer group.

At the nearby New Plough, I met some real ale campaigners. They want to preserve their local and the thousands of other pubs threatened with closure.

"To be able to buy drink from the supermarket is great," one of the New Plough regulars, Elizabeth Lewin told me.

Supermarket sweep

"But on the other hand, I like to come out, socialise and meet up with people. That's what you get in the pub."

Since the start of the recession, pub beer sales in the Midlands are down by a third, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.

So is cost the main reason? The average price of a pint in the most parts of the Midlands is between £3 and £3.50.

Tax has increased by 40% since 2008, when Gordon Brown introduced a 2% above inflation annual rise. The so-called beer escalator now means 30% of what you pay goes direct to the government.

A housing estate just outside Hinckley illustrates another growing trend.

Vince Cable in the Commons Business Secretary Vince Cable says he wants 'genuine competition' in the pub industry

The area used to have a local pub. Some thought the beer at the Galaxy was out of this world, but not enough it seems.

It closed down last year and is now a Co-op supermarket.

Local Lib Dem councillor David Inman led a campaign and organised petitions to block a supermarket sweep of so many pubs.

"The pub owners told me they no longer required the premises and simply allowed a supermarket to move in," said Mr Inman.

"There was no need for planning permission and they didn't take into account the wishes of the local people."

In the last two years alone, 200 former pubs have been converted into convenience stores.

It's one of the issues that's prompted MPs to debate the future of the pub industry.

"Britain's pubs are economically vital," Labour's Shadow Business minister Toby Perkins told the Commons.

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The situation is not helped when legislation is against us and beer prices are rising above inflation. ”

End Quote David Finn Camra

"Last year, beer and pubs contributed £21bn to the UK's GDP."

Now the government's proposing to introduce an industry adjudicator to referee between the six big pub companies, their tenants and the consumer wanting a wider range of beers.

'Freeze duty'

"We want to introduce a relationship that is market based," said the Business Secretary Vince Cable.

"We want genuine competition and a real choice for people entering the industry."

But will that be enough?

"We accept that pubs will close," David Finn of Camra said.

"But the situation is not helped when legislation is against us and beer prices are rising above inflation.

"Let's freeze duty and legislate, so pubs cannot be demolished or changed for retail use without permission."

Tax, rising prices and supermarkets: for England's traditional pubs, the pressure is on.

John Hess Article written by John Hess John Hess Political editor, East Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    several 'pub operating companies' (POCs) are known to bankers as 'zombies' - generating just enough cash to service their excessive loans

    the bankers should foreclose - but the government/bank of england/lending bankers won't face the political consequences of years of irresponsibility - massive overvaluation of property in general - housing in particular

    and they gave people what they wanted!

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    A much loved local closed near me a year or two and has been converted into flats,despite a friend of mine offering to take over.He was told that there were 'too many pubs in Whitwick.'The parasitic men in suits who piggyback on the efforts of hard working landlords,have to be removed from the equation. Looking just at maximising profit does nothing for communities or quality of life!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.


    Thanks to the wonder of these PubCo agreements the cost of your (tied) supply of booze actually GOES UP per unit if you sell more booze. So much for bulk discount.
    Short sighted pubCo's...
    I find attitudes are now changing with frozen rents & greater discounts now being given just to help keep the pub operating.
    Many of these pub Co's are going bust because their owe too much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    @Black Pearl

    'rent would'nt be so unreasonable if you were taking 3 x as much over the counter'

    Thanks to the wonder of these PubCo agreements the cost of your (tied) supply of booze actually GOES UP per unit if you sell more booze. So much for bulk discount.

    It's almost as if the PubCos don't want their landlords to make too much money. Just keep them on the breadline on 90 hour weeks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Totally agree BP, how can you advertise responsible drinking and drink aware if you are constantly offering such reduced prices on alcohol. Sold to be consumed at home with little or no supervision. A lot of under age drinkers start the evening off by drinking their parents alcohol before going out on the town, then we complain about unsociable behaviour.
    Stop the supermarkets selling alcohol.


Comments 5 of 53


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