The demise of the local pub

The campaign for real ale group (CAMRA), say that cheap prices offered by supermarkets, the smoking ban and the recession are all contributors in the demise of the local pub.


Forty pubs a week are closing down across the UK. Photo: Anneka James

A spokesperson for CAMRA said: “There’s a massive tax on beer that has been imposed by the Government over the last couple of years and a record thirty-nine pubs are closing a week.”

“The recession definitely (has a part to play) as people are spending less on luxury items and it’s quite a worrying time for the pub industry at present as beer sales are at their lowest since the Great Depression,” they added.

The 2007 smoking ban also caused more people to “shun the pub”, as they stayed at home and bought alcohol cheaply from supermarkets.

Unlike supermarkets, pubs have to pay a high beer tax on every pint and can’t pass it off on to other products like supermarkets can. This leaves pubs unable to compete with low prices, resulting in fewer customers and eventually many are forced to close down.

“Supermarkets absorb the cost by putting a penny or two on goods such as bread or cheese or milk and absorb the duty that and obviously they can still afford to offer huge discounts through this method”, CAMRA said.

The CAMRA representative also claims that pubs offer something that supermarkets never can: “Supermarkets are a cheaper experience but not as quality an experience as going to a pub.”

And students agree.

Chris Bingham, a Media Production student at the University of Lincoln hadn’t realised the number of closures was so high, and is concerned about the future of the local pub.

“I prefer a cosy pub atmosphere to a sticky club night. Last year I lost one of my favourite local pubs to poor business. I knew the manager and it was kind of sad,” the twenty-year-old said.

The high prices charged in pubs are the main reason for the closures and Fine Art student James Hall chooses to buy beer from supermarkets instead.

“As a student living off a low weekly budget, I tend to buy more beer from supermarkets than in a club or a pub, mainly because their prices are ridiculously expensive,” Hall said.

The nineteen-year-old is increasingly aware of the closures but says he is unwilling to pay pub prices: “Pubs are closing and re-opening and then closing again all the time back home. It doesn’t surprise me that they lose business with the extortionate prices that they charge.”

“I’d much rather have supermarket prices, but in a pub,” he added.

2 Responses to The demise of the local pub

  1. Marc says:

    ‘Pubcos’ are killing off pubs with preposterous rents and the tie and no amount of campaigning by CAMRA, Private Eye, or Fair Pint seems to make any difference – the OFT has deftly ignored all concerns. That’s the real issue.

  2. Simon Harvey says:

    Marc is right – the financial problems facing many pubs are caused by the beer tie. In many cases, the wholesale cost the the landlord is higher than the retail price in supermarkets. In addition, the ‘pubcos’ put a covenent onto the property which prevents anyone reopening it as a pub once it’s been sold off. This ensures that, as pubs close, there will be progressively fewer pubs and those remaining are controlled by the pubcos. This will leave comsumers with little choice but to pay extortionate prices or go stay at home.

    Like any small business, independent pubs need to adapt to survive. They have to develop a USP and find a niche market. Just offering the consumer pint of lousy beer and a packet of pork scratchings is not enough anymore. Whether it’s haute cuisine, real ale or live music, the pub has to offer an experience that makes punters come back for more.