After two of the most turbulent years pubs and breweries have ever seen, our industry now finds itself once again on the brink of mass closures as skyrocketing energy costs are forcing business owners to think seriously if they can afford to keep their doors open.
It is no exaggeration to say that the threat we face now could be more damaging to our nation’s pubs than the pandemic.
And this is not a new problem, it has been building steadily with bartenders desperately trying to make ends meet in any way they can for months on end.
As early as April this year, pubs reported 300 per cent increases in their energy bills, and that’s in the warmer months.
This week, a York city center pub was forced to close after monthly energy payments rose from £900 a month to £2,500. This is one of countless examples of sudden spikes in energy bills bringing pubs to a standstill.
And when combined with chronic supply chain challenges, labor shortages and customers who are thinking more carefully than ever about where to spend their money, pubs simply cannot remain viable because their profit margins are being eradicated.
The rise in energy prices came at a time when the sector had just begun to rebuild its recovery from the pandemic, and many of our places were still in debt from long periods of forced closure.
Hundreds of pubs were also forced to close for good after the pandemic, a phenomenon that played out in the public eye after periods of lockdown.
But skyrocketing energy bills will be a silent killer of many more pubs if we don’t act now, with extreme energy bills arriving through pub letter boxes across the country.
I spoke to a publican in Thornton-Le-Dale in North Yorkshire earlier this year who already had serious concerns about how he was going to afford to heat his 18th-century stone building over the winter.
After serving hot meals and comforting many through a difficult winter last year, she was convinced her pub would remain a welcoming space for locals next winter, but she was nervous about how she would balance the books.
And this will be the reality in Yorkshire’s cities and towns as publicans try to plan ahead and keep the doors open for their communities. And the impact is not only being felt by local pubs and smaller businesses, but also by larger brewers and retailers, as BrewDog announced this week that it will close six of its sites due to lack of support in the face of unprecedented increases in prices. energy costs.
One of our nation’s most iconic and beloved sectors is being left to attempt to navigate an endless storm where the waves only get stronger. And it has become abundantly clear that this storm will not pass by itself.
If we want to enjoy pubs in the future, we need the Government to come up with a specific support package for the hospitality sector now. We are asking for a price cap for small businesses along with grant support.
Currently the energy price cap is only in place for home users, we need a similar cap for small businesses before irreversible damage is done.
Pubs truly are the beating heart of the communities they serve.
They are the place where we laugh, the place where we cry, the place where we can be together. If they disappeared, tomorrow we would be trying to invent them again. We simply cannot afford to lose them.
When combined with world class UK brewed beer, pubs have long been recognized as part of our country’s identity and there are countless iconic pubs in Yorkshire that contribute to this identity. With the right investment and support, these pubs and breweries can continue their role as community hubs, employers, innovators, tourist attractions and more.
Not only are they steeped in heritage and history, but they are also innovating and planning for a future where they continue to serve our country’s diverse communities and seize opportunities to be sustainable.
As pubs welcomed people after the pandemic, it was clear from the faces and conversations of people who had missed them, they are rare spaces that are open to all.
They are an important part of our past, and I don’t want to imagine a Britain where they are not part of our future.
If the Government is serious about saving a national treasure that so many hold dear, we need swift action from the new Prime Minister as soon as they walk through the door of Number 10, before it’s too late.
Emma McClarkin is Executive Director of the British Beer and Pub Association.