Future of Pubs 2013: have your say...

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Future of Pubs 2013: have your say...

Post by Mr Admin on Fri Mar 01, 2013 3:20 am

Thousands of publicans are struggling to make a living, with the smoking ban, high beer tax and "unfair" prices charged by pub companies being blamed. The government has promised to act, but will it do enough?

For millions of people it is "the dream" to run their very own Pub.

What could be better? Chatting to customers, being a leading figure in the community, being bought the odd drink, having fun: it certainly beats the nine-to-five, and the money's not bad, either.

That is the idealised vision of the licensed trade. For many thousands of publicans, the reality is very different.

Pubs, some of them hundreds of years old, are closing at the rate of 18 a week across the UK, according to the Campaign for Real Ale.

The smoking ban and rises in VAT and beer duty have hit profits, not to mention recent recessions and cut-price booze deals in supermarkets.

Many of those running pubs are locked into exclusivity deals, under which they are known as "tied houses". This means they can only sell beer, wine and spirits supplied by the companies owning the premises.

Often the wholesale prices are so high they squeeze any chance of making a decent living, it is argued.



A TRADE IN DECLINE?

18 pubs a week closed in 2012
117 million fewer pints drunk in three months to September 2012, compared with the same period in 2011
Tax on beer up by 42% from 2008 to 2012
Sources: CAMRA/British Beer & Pub Association





'Getting worse'

Pubs have changed enormously over the past couple of decades. Most offer food. Some are far swisher. Opening hours are longer.

Pubs have an established place in British life. But the biggest change came after the Conservative government of the late 1980s became concerned that large breweries owned too many pubs.

The Monopolies and Mergers Commission found they were creating a "complex monopoly", damaging the interests of publicans and customers.

The resulting "Beer Orders" stipulated that no brewery was allowed to have more than 2,000 tied houses by November 1992.

So thousands of pubs were sold, many of them bought by companies which became known as "pubcos", which, as they did not manufacture drinks themselves, were exempt from the terms of the Beer Orders.

They quickly proliferated and the largest today are Enterprise and Punch Taverns, owning more than 8,000 pubs and bars each.

Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland, who chairs the All-Party Save the Pub Group, has accused pubcos of overcharging for beer and rent to help pay off their large debts.

He said: "The anti-monopolies move went wrong. The pubcos are now as big as the breweries ever were. Politicians on all sides recognise that something needs to be done. A lot of what is going on is nothing more than a scam.

"These firms are in debt and the quickest way to get rid of it is to sell off the premises. That means a load of pubs will end up as housing or supermarkets, ripping the heart out of many communities.

"It's heartbreaking. People are just trying to make a decent living and do their bit to keep places alive."

'Irresponsibly low prices'

Amid accusations that pubcos are exploiting tenants, the current government has promised to introduce a statutory code of practice to govern the relationship between them and landlords, overseen by an independent regulator.

The details of this arrangement still have to be thrashed out.

But Enterprise Inns said the tied house model was working for thousands of publicans, offering a "low cost of entry", as buying a lease was far cheaper than having to purchase the building outright.

Chief executive Ted Tuppen argues that politicians are to blame for much of the malaise, particularly the beer duty escalator, which automatically rises at 2% above the rate of inflation.

He said: "The past five years have clearly been difficult for publicans, with the smoking ban and irresponsibly low prices from supermarkets.

"In addition, the impact of the duty escalator has greatly contributed to the demise of many smaller, wet-led [beer, rather than food-oriented] pubs. During the past three years, whilst our average profit per pub has declined 12% to £67,000 per annum, the Treasury has increased its tax take by 19% to £145,000 per pub."

Action on tied houses is being promised, but it is too late for some. For others, a more fundamental rethink of taxation is just as important.

What do you think?
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Re: Future of Pubs 2013: have your say...

Post by Beautiful1 on Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:12 am

Nice article. The whole debate throws a lot onto the table and in a career which is uncertain enough, somehow makes it feel even more uncertain. I am optimistic that things are turning around for pubs generally. For those who have lasted so far, the signs that things are better are there, although I accept not everyone feels that way. Yes supermarkets have and are damaging competitiveness but people are realising that pubs offer something you won't get at home. The social experience of a pub and the choice and variety of drinks, atmosphere and fun is such a good laugh. People are fed up with the doom and gloom and if you want to give it a miss, then go to the pub for a couple of hours!

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