Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Why have all the pubs closed?

(Click on the chart for a larger image)

Why have all the pubs in London closed?

I found this curious chart from the British Beer and Pub Association. It shows beer consumption over the last ten years. It is interesting because it shows only a slight fall off in beer sales. Overall, the decline is not that dramatic. Collapsing demand doesn't appear to be the answer.

Perhaps it is my fault; I never visited them much when they were there. However, I have noticed their sudden disappearance. It is quite spooky, really. London is now covered with boarded up public houses.

Just to be clear about my own view; I don't like beer, I don't like people talking about bear, and I am not interested in hearing about some lost golden age when beer was better. I am, however, very curious about the sudden destruction of local institutions, many of which had been around for decades. Can anyone explain what happened?


Oldftb said...

Why it's a simple reason Alice. It was the smoking ban what caused it!

electro-kevin said...

People are drinking beer in quantity alright - but not in cosey little pubs. They're doing it in drinking barns such as Weatherspoons.

Smoking has had an effect as has the amount of squeeze from brewers on landlords - specifying the ales on offer and jacking up the rents. There are easier ways to make a living ... or at least there were.

The most dramatic change by far has been social. The advent of central heating, the video recorder and supermarket beers meaning that escape to the pub is no longer necessary.

Divorce has played a part as well. Men used the pub to get away from their wives. Now they don't have to - but after the expense of a costly divorce they can only afford to drink in discounted beer outlets. The dates on some of those barrels indicate that we should be seeing an upsurge in beer related tummy upsets but I guess that's blamed on the kebabs.

Budvar said...

I love beer, I love talking about beer etc etc.. The bottom line is, I can buy 35 pints from asda for £20, I don't have to stand outside in the siling rain if I want a fag, I don't have to put up with some pissed up tosser either getting stroppy or thinking they can sing assaulting me physically or audibly, I can talk as loud as I want and swear as much as I want, and no Mr Landlord, the bar of the "Slug & Vomit" is not an extension of your front room, also if you sell it, you put up with them and don't go whining when the punter is worse for wear. Me, I can't think for the life of me why 500 pubs the length and breadth of this land of ours are closing every week.

Alice Cook said...


I enjoyed reading your comment. Perhaps, it is not such a mystery why pubs are closing.


Alice Cook said...


I enjoyed reading your comment. Perhaps, it is not such a mystery why pubs are closing.


Mark Wadsworth said...

It was the smoking ban, pure and simple. I haven't set foot in a pub since, except to nip in, buy a pint and then go shiver outside.

Anonymous said...

It is tempting to regard beer consumption as an estimate of alcohol consumption but I think that would be dodgy.

The shift to home consumption is both clear and unsurprising.

Convenience is part of that along with the perception of the streets being unsafe in the evenings.

The fact that some web/ gaming addicts would have to leave their computer behind to get to the pub is possibly also a factor for some.

Anonymous said...

You daren't drive to a rural pub. You can't smoke in a rural or town pub. In a town pub on a Friday or Saturday night you risk getting glassed or knifed. In many, the noise is so bad, you can't hold a conversation. In some, the beer is not kept well and is undrinkable and expensive. Maybe there are some clues there.

About three years ago I visited a part of NW London that I had known well. The very large pub in the High Street which I expected to be heaving, contained the Manager and six of his mates, who made me feel very unwelcome. A trip to a smaller but once popular pub had the manager and three ancient locals. They told me that the place was to be demolished and a block of flats erected in its place.

So,maybe the UK bubble is at least partly responsible.

A David

Anonymous said...

Less disposable income = less pub drinking, certainly according to a desperate landlord in Blean, Kent.

B. in C.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I had almost
never set foot in a pub until _after_
the smoking ban.

I occasionally eat cheapo "two for one"
type meals in them, so I don't imagine
gaining my custom has been a big help
to pubs in general. I do know other
people who avoided them because they
were smoky, though.

Anonymous said...

The smoking ban,

and black market 'recreational' smoking .

Anonymous said...

I'm with anon at 20:20. I started going in when the smell went. However, the opportunity isn't really being seized. I stated going to one regularly for lunch, and they changed the menu beyond recognition. Wrecked the experience it did. :-(

jdc said...

This is very odd. Everyone thinks it was the smoking ban, but the rate of pub closures has barely changed since the smoking ban, they were shutting at a pretty fair pace before it. You'd have expected the rate to go up anyway, what with the recession.

It couldn't be that people are seeing two things they didn't like happen at the same time, and assuming that the two are therefore related? In that case, I say it's cuts in interest rates causing it. No idea why, but there's my theory.

For what it's worth, my bar (I DJ in my spare time) has been busier than ever before since the smoking ban, despite us putting the prices up.

Anonymous said...

Listening about this on Radio 4 yesterday. Apparently its taxes. A bit like the way that councils are charging extortionate rates for shops. This country is finished!

Anonymous said...

A lot of it is about gearing.... Companies bought up large number of pubs by issuing debt against the value of the properties and the future value of 'drink sales'. In order to service this debt, the owners of the pubs set high prices for the beer sales and for the tenants rent. When tenants can no longer afford it, they close the pub leaving the companies in trouble. This isnt about beer sales, people are still drinking, but in other places (esp at home). This is about the effects of over-gearing to make a quick buck when credit was cheap without thinking / worrying about the effect when credit was no longer cheap.

roym said...

"Everyone thinks it was the smoking ban, but the rate of pub closures has barely changed since the smoking ban, they were shutting at a pretty fair pace before it."

at last! a comment based on fact re the smoking ban. when will they get it? the minority of addicts were ruining it for the rest of us.

also why must some people exaggerate as if they were living in the bronx circa 1980? i live in zone 3 london where traditionally the pubs were pretty dreary experiences. now you cant get a seat in them due to the fact they have upped their game. better beer, nicer food, great interiors. i never thought id see the day!

Anon 9.45, makes a brilliant observation. enterprise inns has £3.7bn worth of debt while punch taverns had over £4bn! I wonder what they leveraged that against?!

Anonymous said...

I go to a few funky and blissfully smoke-free pubs in South London when I'm in town (I don't live in the UK) and enjoy them. One serves great food and the other snacks. It's clear they're suffering a bit but they seem to have good business nonetheless. There's a traditional corner pub across the street that's packed each night. Mind you, this is in an art student area :)

Before the smoking ban I hardly went at all -- it just wasn't worth it. What I can't stand are the pubs with enormous tellies playing sports all day.

If I were a smoker I probably wouldn't bother -- what a grim chore to go outside for a fag. But then they should quit anyway.

Anonymous said...

Roym, you are an idiot.

If your "majority" was kept out of pubs before the ban, then the rate of closure would have come down since you "are able" to go in again.

I'm not even going to start on your view about "minorities" having to be kept out of private places of business by government diktat.

Anonymous said...

There are a number of reasons depending on the market the pub served.

Some pubs have suffered badly from the smoking ban - primarily the traditional pub.

Other pubs have lost customers due to the cost of beer - I see a lot less people in places like Walkabouts these days.

There is also the element of violence, some Town centres have been abandoned due to problems, which have now pretty much gone.

The winners have been the likes of Weatherspoons, supermarkets and more niche places like Manchesters Northern Quarter.

Although with the supermarkets that comes at a cost - in a bar you have to wait to be served, maybe play pool or a fruit machine, or try some chat up lines. At home you can just keep guzzling away 'til 11ish then head off to the club much more drunk than you would've been from barhopping - thus increasing alcohol-related problems.

cambstreasurer said...

Rents for retail premises seem to have followed the housing bubble, but in a peculiar way which means they are still trying to rise even though sales have fallen.

The problem is that a sitting tenant has spent money on fittings etc. so finds it very difficult to walk away when the lease comes up for renewal and the landlord wants to increase the rent. This isn't simply the "concord fallacy" because the tenant will have to pay for fittings a second time if he moves to new premises.

"Fair rents" are determined on the basis of comparing what other landlords are charging, so as long as all the landlords think they ought to be getting more rent than last year rents keep spiraling up and tenants keep renewing until margins are squeezed to the point where they go broke.

Pragmatist said...

The problem is with the land owner "pubcos". They are extremely leveraged, and now getting squeezed. The only way for them to keep breaking the covenants is to raise the rents, however raising rents into a recession is not gonna work.

Until these companies BK, they will keep forcing pub operators out of business:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Of course the smoking ban. Nothing else to discuss. If you delve further into it you could verify that the closure rate for pubs without garden areas (i.e. smoke on the street) is higher.
Further, you might have noticed that drinking outside, for various social reasons, is being clamped down on. Picnics are gone too.

Anonymous said...

The only pubs that will survive will be clean, have great food, great service, fresh beer, safe, safe, safe, no creeps, hooligans or scum, and no bad, British attitude. Actually, this is a massive opportunity for people from Europe to come over start the sort of art bars you find there, that are funky, make cocktails, have great music and food, and tend to be designed by some dude in odd glasses.

dearieme said...

I like to sit out in a beer garden in the summer, supping the pint contemplative. It used to be lovely - all the loud, ignorant yahoos were talking shite indoors in a smokey fug. Now the bastards come outdoors, spoiling the experience for me. Bloody Labour government.