24 October 2017
The ‘Pub’ has been facing a gradual decline since 2000, but this decline has been exasperated since the 2008 financial crisis. According to the Campaign for Real Ale, pubs are closing at the rate of four per day and we have seen the closure of close to 10,000 pubs in the decade between 2005 and 2015. Pubs have experienced increased taxation on alcohol duty combined with exorbitant rent and business rates relief for the industry is drastically required.
In response to the declining number of pubs in the UK, in 2016 the government commissioned the ‘More than a Pub’ funding scheme. The project is a £3.62 million, 2-year programme that will see a comprehensive package of business development support, advice, and loan and grant funding being delivered to community groups in England to help them establish community-owned pubs that can clearly demonstrate how they will bring significant social, economic and environmental benefits to their communities. Also the Depatment for Communities for Local Government has mandated Local authorities will be expected to use their discretionary relief powers (under section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988, as amended) to grant a new relief for pubs in line with the relevant eligibility criteria. The project also coincides with the Campaign for Real Ale’s 2017 general election lobbying process, asking all candidates to support UK breweries, pubs and consumers.
In spite of the direct action from the government and campaign groups, the challenges facing pubs are multi-faceted. Post-recession consumer trends have changed, and the public are seeking greater value in their purchases and experiences. Supermarkets have ‘glutted’ the market with cheap alcohol which, with tax legislation, has greatly distorted the price between the on and off-trade market. Licensing legislation has also had an impact as 24 hour licenses have created consumer-rotation between different establishments, with nightclubs residing in cities or town centres, whilst community pubs are in more residential and local areas. Pubs are also finding it difficult to compete against establishments that can stay open for longer.
One year on from the introduction of the Statutory Pub Codes and the introduction of Paul Newby as Pubs Code adjudicator, this symposium will offer pubs, breweries, pub companies and relevant trade bodies an invaluable opportunity to assess the governments’ effort in mitigating the decline of pubs. It will also provide an opportunity to share best practice on how to tackle the decline of local pubs in light of the challenges presented.