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Saving pubs: what needs to happen

In tis article Victoria Wells discusses what needs to happen to save pubs from disappearing.
Photo of a pint of beer on a pub table in front of a roaring fire.
© Dan Barrett on Unsplash

In the video I’ve highlighted some ideas about what you can do as an individual to help save pubs. But what else needs to happen?

We’ve highlighted some of the main issues that pubs have faced and continue to face and there are things we need to do as individuals but we can’t save pubs alone and support is urgently needed from the government.

We’ve seen that pubs are often under threat because they’re worth more as land for building than as pubs. Even pubs that are busy and well-visited may still be worth more as land for development.

Campaigners have called for better planning laws and enforcement, echoed much more widely after the Crooked House, for pubs including a call for better protection for heritage pubs, a listing system that takes ‘sufficient account of the contribution that a building makes to a place’s essence’ and for pubs to not be demolished without planning permission. While planning law was changed in 2017 so that pubs in England could not be converted or demolished without planning permission, as reported by The Guardian in the wake of The Crooked House fire and subsequent demolition:

“CAMRA found that of the 96 pubs that had been converted or demolished across the UK in the first six months of the year, 31 of those lacked planning permission.T “he Crooked House is the latest in a line of pubs you hear about that have been knocked down or converted without any reference to the local community or without seeking proper permissions,” said Tom Stainer, the chief executive of Camra.”
He said penalties for developers were not severe enough, so some were simply factoring the cost of fines into a project:
““Some developers know they might get fined, but at the end of the day, they’re going to end up doing what they want to do, which is to knock down a pub and rebuild it as something else and make a lot of money that way,” Stainer said.”
Taxation rates also have a significant effect on pubs and campaigners, such as Long Live The Local, the British Beer and Pubs Association(BBPA), CAMRA, are calling for lower rates of VAT for food and beverages sold in pubs, fairer business rates, and lower beer duty. As can be seen in Figure 1, from the BBPA, beer duty in the UK is one of the highest in Europe.
European Beer Duty Rates Figure 1. European Beer Duty Rates (© British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA))
In 2023 JD Wetherspoon (JDW) cut its prices for one day, on the 14th September, by 7.5% to highlight the positive impact a VAT reduction would have on pubs and the broader hospitality sector. The Morning Advertiser noted:
“While all food and drink in pubs are subject to 20% VAT, JDW stated by comparison, supermarkets pay zero VAT and are able to use that saving to sell alcohol to customers at a discounted price.”

As noted when we discussed the struggles pubs are facing, hospitality staff shortages are making life difficult for pubs and there are calls for government to widen the Youth Mobility Scheme and Shortage Occupation List to support the skills needed in the sector.

CAMRA is also campaigning for changes to the pubs code and adjudicator to ensure licensees are protected and campaigning to see vacant pubs brought back into use by focusing on community users when vacant commercial spaces are leased under High Street Rental Auctions.

Most of us are not local councillors or MPs so can’t make the changes above, but being aware of who is making these decisions, how they affect pubs, and joining campaigns is as important as making sure you visit pubs.

Over to you

What do you think needs to be done to support pubs? Have you ever campaigned to support pubs? Would you, or have you written to your MP to support pubs?

Add your comments to the discussion below!

© Victoria Wells/University of York
This article is from the free online

Pubs: History, Consumers, Management, and Protection

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