Sadly, the situation as regards our precious pubs and breweries is not improving, with new closures being regularly reported. Now, from 1 April, the situation may get worse when the less generous Energy Bill Discount Scheme replaces the Energy Bill Relief Scheme. Business rates will also become payable, although only at 25% of their normal level, up to a limit of £110,000. There is the prospect of favourable changes to alcohol duty rates from 1 August but will it be too late by then?
Numbers compiled by CAMRA show that between July and December last year, some 21 pubs closed or lost their licences each week. 554 pubs were marked as ‘long term closures’, meaning the sites had gone out of business or were standing empty without new operators. CAMRA’s national chairman, Nik Antona, said, “These figures should be an urgent wake-up call for the Government. Without a support package in the Spring Budget, we risk losing more pubs which are at the heart of community life and play such a crucial role in bringing people together and tackling loneliness and social isolation.”
CAMRA asked its members to lobby their MPs in advance of the budget to ask for more help for pubs and breweries. Unfortunately, the budget, on 15 March, comes just as this edition is being finalised. Any news that was available can be found in the News & Views column.