Pubs’ health hangs in the balance after multiple shockwaves

By: JimOldfield

July 17th, 2016

Two starkly contrasting pictures of our pubs’ health has been painted within days, as the local faces a host of new challenges… both in Europe and from the silver screen.

CAMRA has hailed a “brighter future” for the pub – revealing figures that the net number of pubs closing per week fell from 27 to 21 in the past six months.

The real ale organisation has urged the public to continue supporting local pubs to make sure pub closures continue to fall – while saying that the new Pubs Code and Adjudicator in England and Wales will help resolve industry disputes and ensure fair deals for publicans, which should see closure rates fall further.

This sanguine report was not seconded by insolvency specialist Begbies Traynor however…

Their figures show the number of pubs and bars which were dissolved in the second quarter increased by 53 per cent, to 831.

Begbies Traynor cited the introduction of the National Living Wage, poor weather, England’s early exit from Euro 2016 and the Brexit decision, with increasing numbers going bust as a result.

The specialists also reported that data from Barclaycard shows that consumers reined in their spending in pubs and restaurants towards the end of June. Such spending, which traditionally sees double-digit growth at the end of the month when many people get their pay packets, fell back by 0.44 per cent and 0.46 per cent respectively in the seven days starting on June 24.

tim_martin_130512Meanwhile, Wetherspoon’s outspoken chairman, Tim Martin, has added some EU thought to the debate, with a couple of interventions over Brexit.

Leave supporter Martin first hit out at “doom-mongering” by key figures who predicted a Leave vote would amount to economic suicide.

He used the release of the pub chain’s quarterly results to slam some of the country’s leaders – including outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne, Bank of England governor Mark Carney as well as the head of the International Monetary Fund.

Martin argued that their anti-Brexit warnings risked that scenario becoming reality.

He said: “In spite of the dire warnings, Wetherspoon trade strengthened slightly in recent weeks and we consequently anticipate a modestly improved outcome for this financial year.”

Martin has since weighed in again – saying this time that Scotland will thrive if it becomes independent, citing the “will of the people” as the most significant driver of a country’s fortunes.

He argued: “Whether a country is economically successful depends on what the majority of people want to do. I think Scotland will be successful outside the UK if the majority of people want to be outside the UK and they are determined to make a success of it.

“And they can be successful inside the UK. It is not written in stone one way or the other. It depends very much on the will of the people.”

Amid this melee, BT Sport hiked its subscription rates by 8.9 per cent, to start on September 1… and sent shockwaves through the pub world. The move follows news of a 10 per cent price rise by Sky, last month.

It means the average monthly price for BT Sport for an independent pub will increase by £35 a month to £430, excluding VAT – although BT is offering a two-year deal that will freeze prices until 2018.

British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds, said: “The headline increases are disappointing, but certainly it is worthwhile for publicans to look carefully at the details, as the offer of a two-year contract means they could benefit from a price freeze in 2017”.

“There are also some interesting developments in terms of potential packages involving both music and wifi, which is a welcome innovation, and which we need if BT want to make their products attractive to pubs.”