It’s Time To Throw a Lifeline to Pubs

On-Trade Progress Guest Columnist and CAMRA Chief Executive Tim Page, writes about CAMRA’s new campaign:

Those of you who attended CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival last month may have seen a number of campaigning postcards scattered around the Festival. You might even have picked one up, signed your name on the back and dropped it into a postbox to be sent from the Festival to your local MP.

If these postcards eluded you this year let me explain: CAMRA has launched a new campaign calling for business rate relief for pubs. We used the Festival as an opportunity to engage with beer-lovers from across the country and to encourage them to “write” to their MPs, using pre-filled postcards outlining our key ‘asks’.

Participating festival attendees have urged their local MP to help save valued local pubs from being driven out of business. There are, of course, a range of reasons why pubs are struggling today – from cheap supermarket booze to declining footfall – but we are particularly concerned with the massive tax burden that pubs are facing, a situation that has been made worse by the recent business rates revaluation.

Today, more than a third of the cost of a pint is made up of various taxes of one kind or another. The recent revaluation has placed a massive burden on many successful pubs across England – levying heavy tax penalties on them for either performing well or finding themselves in an affluent area. In some cases, the rate increase can only be covered by a pub selling tens of thousands of extra pints of beer every year. Many landlords are facing a choice: either raise the already sky-high price of a pint, or close up shop.

Take the Boot, a pub that is nearly 600 years old and situated in affluent St Albans. The landlord Sean Hughes reports that his business rates bill will soar by 280% over the next five years, from £14,000 a year to £52,000. This means they would have to sell an additional 22,000 pints of beer a year just to pay for an increase – an insurmountable sum to make up for a wet-led pub.

These rate increases – which are based on location and turnover – are clearly unsustainable. It is the trade that will ultimately pay the price, whether they are forced to put up their prices at the risk of falling footfall, or cease trading.

Public opinion is strongly supportive of our pubs as well. Recent research by YouGov found that 69% of people who expressed an opinion overwhelmingly support an urgent tax break for pubs. Why? Because pubs are more than just businesses operating to deliver a profit. Pubs provide safe, managed places for people to get together and drink responsibly, and many of us recognise the vital role that they play in local communities. From celebrating a special occasion to meeting up with friends after work, pubs are an integral part of many people’s social lives.

The Government is starting to catch on as well. In the Spring Budget, the Chancellor announced a one-off £1,000 discount scheme for some pubs. Whilst welcome, we believe this is nowhere near enough. £1,000 is just a drop in the ocean for a publican who has seen their rates increased by £20,000. CAMRA is therefore calling for a £5,000 reduction in business rates for every pub in England, every year, in recognition of the contribution they make to their local communities and to society as a whole.

If you’ve been affected by high business rates, why not get in touch? We’re always on the lookout for good case studies to speak to the Media and the Government. If you’d like to get involved in our campaign, please write to your MP today by visiting: Don’t forget to use our hashtag #keeppubsafloat to help spread the word.