Why Are So Many British Pubs Closing?

More than a quarter of Britain’s pubs that existed in 1980 have closed their doors. Last year alone, the country lost some 1,100 pubs. What’s behind this trend?

One factor is spiraling real-estate prices, which provides developers with an incentive to convert pubs into houses and apartments. In just the last five years, the average house price has risen by 50 percent.

Another factor was a 2007 law banning smoking in public places.

And then there’s cost. A pint of beer is five times as expensive in a pub as it is in a supermarket. The price discrepancy is due in part to Britain’s tax code, which imposes a higher levy on pub revenue than supermarket revenue; and to higher staff costs in the service industry than in retail.

But there’s some good news for pub lovers. It is now possible to list local pubs as “assets of community value”, which makes development more difficult. Parliament recently scrapped an inflation-linked excise tax on beer, providing some price relief for beer drinkers. Last but not least, Britain’s craft-brewing boom has resulted in a more diverse selection of beer at the “friendly local”.

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