Owning a pub in beer-loving Britain was once a licence to print money—but not anymore. In fact, some say the local pub is being taxed into extinction.
According to a new report by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), 39 pubs in Britain are shutting their doors every week, and there are now seven million fewer pints sold each day than there were at the market’s peak in 1979. The lobby group now fears that as many as 60,000 jobs—or 10 per cent of the sector’s total workforce—could be lost.
The BBPA argues that the British government’s predilection for “punitive increases in tax and regulation” is behind the slump. Last year, the government increased the duty on alcohol twice and it plans to keep increasing taxes by two per cent above inflation for the next four years. “It all means that by the time of the London Olympic Games, tax on alcohol will have increased by as much as 40 per cent,” Tim How, the chairman-elect of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, wrote in a letter to the Times last month.
More than 200 British MPs are backing a motion by Liberal Democrat Bob Russell calling for an end to tax increases and a proscription on new laws governing alcohol consumption. Brewers are also pushing for April 6 to be recognized as “National Beer Day” as part of the growing campaign to save the “great British pub.”
Others say that the fact that Britons are drinking less is not all bad news. The Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-leaning British think tank, supports the moratorium on tax increases, but it suggests that Britons may have simply discovered other things to do with their free time, such as going to a restaurant or catching a movie. It recommends pub owners learn to “keep pace with consumer tastes and demand.” Otherwise, they say, last call may come sooner than they’d like.