It has been a tough old time of late for your typical English Public House.
With changing social norms and the younger generation seeming to prefer nightclubs or meeting up online, what used to be a mainstay of the local community across the country had already been seeing their numbers diminish, and this of course was not helped one bit by the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, the resulting lockdowns (and additional costs and restrictions when pubs could again open) and now on top of that landlords and ladies have the cost of energy crisis to contend with, as well.
Back in July of this year, investigations showed that there were fewer operational pubs in England and Wales then ever before, and sadly for the more traditional, most of those closed pubs have now been demolished or converted into buildings for other use, such as homes or work offices according to research from real estate advisers the Altus Group
In the first half of 2022, the total number of pubs dipped below 40,000 – a fall of 7000 when compared with a decade ago, and even though the research suggests that many of these great community spaces managed to admirably battle through the Covid issues, there are massive fresh challenges ahead with record high inflation hitting stock and consumables prices (let alone how deep customers pockets now stretch), energy running costs are also another major issue, and not just for those in the hospitality sector. With many pubs also having gambling machines, or simply being a hub for punters to talk about the likes of BetStation sports betting sites and what the weekend horse racing, football or rugby results could be, it is another revenue stream that has been lost for them given a changing world.
Altus Group’s UK president, Robert Hayton, explained, “while pubs proved remarkably resilient during the pandemic, they’re now facing new headwinds grappling with the cost of doing business crisis through soaring energy costs, inflationary pressures and tax rises.”
Some 200 pubs disappeared from communities in the first six months of the year, and the West Midlands was particularly badly hit with 28 further closures across that period, and London and the east of England lost 24 each of their own.
With the challenges that lie ahead for all businesses, information provided by the British Institute of Innkeeping, UK Hospitality and the British Beer and Pub Association provides for some sobering thoughts, as they found only 37% of overall hospitality businesses are currently operating at a profit, with the cost of energy, goods and labour identified as the biggest drivers in that.
The sector as a whole has previously called on the government to provide help, and Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, commented “when pubs are forced to close it’s a huge loss to the local community, and these numbers paint a devastating picture of how pubs are being lost in villages, towns and cities across the country. As a sector we have just weathered the hardest two years on memory, and we now face the challenge of extreme rising costs, with only one in three hospitality businesses currently profitable. It’s essential that we receive relief to ease these pressures or we really do risk losing more pubs year on year.”
Although the Government have promised help to match up with support for the general public, the details on what their actual plan is and the actual support received has been delayed and may now not arrive until November at the earliest, which will do absolutely nothing for current business confidence, particularly as any support is believed to be capped at an initial six months to begin with, where only ‘vulnerable businesses’ will be assessed for additional further help.
The Federation for Small Business’s Andy Soady rightly explained that “all businesses are vulnerable if they are energy users and let’s face it, the problems in the gas market don’t look they are going away in six months.”
If the Government fail to ensure businesses are protected whilst favouring unfair and extreme windfall profits for the big energy companies, ultimately, taxpayers and the general public will only have an even bigger burden to bear.