Pubs: The struggles of ownership

Almost 1,000 pubs closed in the UK last year according to new research, with around 76 shutting each month, but what is causing this decline?

It’s not new for pubs to be closing as quickly as they are, as in 2010 there were around 54,000 pubs, with the figure dropping to 43,000 as of 2017.

There are various factors that are affecting the industry in the UK, but what do the owners of Kent pubs put down to the decline?

Changes In Culture

The amount of alcohol that the average Briton consumes has been decreasing gradually since 2010, with it expected to keep falling until 2030.

Many put the decrease in the average level of alcohol consumption in the UK down to a change in drinking culture, with them claiming it has changed a lot over time.

Richard Simm, the owner of The Sussex Arms in Tunbridge Wells said: “People are spending more time at home.

“The living room is a very different place to what it was ten years ago largely because of what you can access online.”

Alex Greig, the owner of the Fuggles Beer Cafe in Tunbridge Wells shares a similar opinion, he said: “I’d say changes in culture play a large part, people go out less in society now and do more online.”

It is not only the Internet that has impacted drinking culture either, with pub owners also claiming a change in work culture affecting it as well.

Neil Browne, the owner of The Malt Shovel in Dartford said: “People’s drinking habits have changed as well in the professional world, with things like the business lunch or liquid lunch is a thing of the past.

“Day times are quieter than they used to be.”

Supermarkets

The changes in drinking culture are not the only factor affecting pubs either, as although people are consuming less in general, there has also been an increase in people drinking at home.

This is thought to be because of financial benefits of drinking indoors, and paired with the entertainment available in the home now many don’t feel the need to go out to pubs to drink.

The owner of the CrossKeys Pub in Tunbridge Wells said: “In short it’s down to the price differences between supermarkets and pubs.

“In pubs you don’t just pay for your drink, in that cost you are paying for the facilities, whereas in a supermarket you’ll get the alcohol for may be 3/4 times less in price.

“The price gap has now become too large.”

Trends

Constant trends are affecting business according to many pub owners, with them claiming that things like Dry January are harming their businesses.

These movements impact businesses each year, with bars losing part of their potential customer base for an entire month at a time.

Richard Simm, the owner of The Sussex Arms said: “People are drinking less: in general, with the younger demographic especially showing a marked decline in use of alcohol, because of events like Dry January.”

The owner of the Fuggles Beer Cafe, Alex Greig shares a similar view in how these trends can impact business, he said, “The temperance movement/constant drive to go sober for a month (ironically from charities that hugely benefit from pubs doing fundraisers etc) has also influenced younger generations.”

Increased Business Rates

Business rates are considered by some as one of the biggest reasons for pub closures according to pub owners in Kent.

This is because with the high business rates it can become difficult for establishments to make money, often leaving them with no other option but to increase prices, something that can easily deter potential customers.

Richard Simm, owner of The Sussex Arms said:” The increase in costs, especially business rates is incredibly difficult to deal with as pubs are valued on receipts not square footage, meaning their rates are disproportionately large.”

Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association commented: “The number of pubs in the UK has fallen considerably, due to them facing increasing and considerable tax pressures from a range of sources; particularly high beer duty, unfair business rates and VAT.

“This is deeply concerning because pubs are a great British institution and are often the social hub of their community.”

What Can Pubs Do To Survive?

Pubs have always been an integral part of British culture, however in order to survive you need to evolve with the times.

Alex Greig, the owner of the Fuggles Beer Cafe feels that in order to succeed in the current environment, pubs need to offer more than just alcohol.

He said: “Pubs need to be able to offer more experiences to people, be that with interesting, well thought out products or with events etc.

“Pubs also need to cater for more people and be more open about doing so.

“If people aren’t drinking as much we have to create an environment and atmosphere for them as well – they still want to socialise!”

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