Local pubs are closing at a record rate with the loss of 24,000 jobs in the last year, figures from an industry body have claimed.
But pubs owned or leased by large pub corporations were less likely to close than free houses, it emerged, despite complaints from landlords over interference from the major pub companies.
Research from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) found 52 pubs had closed every week in the first half of 2009, a third more than the same time last year.
And community pubs were shown to be the most vulnerable in the economic downturn as communities are hit by the fallout of the economic downturn.
Pubs have been facing very tough times during the financial downturn as the drop in consumer confidence means people prefer to stay at home. This is combined with stiff competition from supermarkets willing to use alcohol as a loss leader.
Local pubs closed at a rate of 40 a week in the first six months of the year, while nine high street bars were shut per week. Meanwhile, branded pubs and cafe-style bars were shown to be opening at a rate of two a week.
The BBPA said the figures were the worst for the industry since records began in 1990. A spokesman said: “The biggest impact is the recession. There are fewer people out and fewer people spending money in pubs and bars regardless of where they are.
“Pubs are already diversifying but unfortunately if you are a community pub you can’t transform yourself into a trendy town centre bar.”
He said the overall number of pubs had remained steady at around 60,000 for years, with closure rates at around two businesses a week in 2005. The number of pubs has dropped by 2,377 in the last year, to 53,466, the figures showed.
Many pub landlords have been critical of the behaviour of ‘pubcos’ – the most prominent of which are West Midlands firms Punch Taverns and Enterprise Inns – blaming them for restrictive practices towards lessees over beer pricing that was putting them out of business.
But figures requested by cabinet office minister Angela Smith in response to a parliamentary question on pub closures found independent pubs were much more likely to go out of business than either leased or managed pubs. The failure rate among free houses stands at about 29 per cent compared to about eight per cent of tied pubs and four per cent of managed pubs.
The ‘tie’ between pub companies and pub managers was criticised by a parliamentary scrutiny committee, which is reportedly set to refer the pub companies to the competition commission.
And the BBPA spokesman said: “Government will be very interested in these numbers and what they indicate is happening in the pub sector.
“The biggest economic shock since the Great Depression is hurting every business and every sector and hitting all pubs hard.”
But Karl Harrison, of the anti-tie Fair Pint campaign said the BBPA was “clutching at straws”, and said the figures did not reflect what was going on at the moment because they went back as far as 2003.