Why are pubs closing down? Urgent warning on 'acute' pressure facing UK pubs - as 80 close a month

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  • England and Wales saw 239 pubs closing doors in the first quarter of 2024, averaging 80 closures monthly
  • Experts have expressed concern over closures, highlighting community impact and job losses
  • There are calls for urgent government action to address cost burden on hospitality businesses
  • But Whitbread's sales increased despite industry challenges, with midweek trade remaining strong

Analysis has revealed that England and Wales witnessed a loss of 239 pubs in the first quarter of 2024 alone.

That’s an average of nearly 80 pubs closing their doors per month. The closures occurred just before above-inflation increases to both business rates and wages, which collectively added £3.4 billion to the cost burden for hospitality businesses.

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Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UKHospitality, expressed concern over the ongoing closure trend, saying: “The level of closures that we’re continuing to see reinforces that the challenges facing our nation’s pubs remains as acute as ever.

“It is unacceptable that 80 pubs a month are forced to shut their doors, robbing communities of a vital asset and costing people their jobs. The fact that we’re seeing such a high number of sites closing for good should concern us all.”

(Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images)(Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images)
(Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images) | Getty Images

UK pubs have faced significant challenges following the Covid-19 pandemic, and now with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

During the pandemic, pubs endured prolonged closures and restrictions, severely impacting their revenue. Even after reopening, capacity limits and social distancing measures reduced their ability to operate profitably.

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By the time these restrictions were completely removed, consumer habits had altered, with more people choosing to drink at home rather than in pubs.

Business rates have also soared in recent years, which have put pressure on already slim profit margins. The recent above-inflation increases in both business rates and wages have further exacerbated financial strains.

The cost-of-living crisis has also fuelled supply chain disruptions, leading to increased prices for goods and services, and pubs have been affected by rising prices for ingredients, utilities and other essential items.

Pubs are also grappling with staff shortages, making it challenging to maintain operations and provide quality service.

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Nicholls said the closure news “underlines the need for any incoming government to urgently address the cost burden facing hospitality businesses.“

She also welcomed the inclusion of business rates reform in several party manifestos, saying “such changes are essential to ensure hospitality can create places where people want to live, work and invest.”

But the industry has not been hit equally, as pub and hotel firm Whitbread revealed increased sales.

The company, which runs the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre brands, said total group sales increased by 1% to £739 million for the three months to 30 May, compared with the same period last year.

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It said “weekend demand” in some areas, including London, was “slightly softer”, while midweek trade remained robust.

Dominic Paul, chief executive, said: “Whilst the normal booking pattern means our forward visibility remains limited, our forward booked position is positive and we remain confident in the full year outlook.

Join the conversation: How do you think the government should support struggling pubs? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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