Almost one in four pubs in the UK have closed down over the past ten years, with cities like Birmingham and Manchester having witnessed some of the highest number of closures, new official figures have showed.
Confirming an already well-known trend, data show there are now around 39,000 pubs in the UK, a 23 per cent decline compared to the 50,000 in 2008.
Small, independently owned pubs have seen the highest number of closures, while the number of larger pubs is steadily rising, the Office for National Statistics said.
Small, independently owned pubs have seen the highest number of closure
Birmingham saw the biggest decline, with the number of pubs slashed by 40 per cent since 2001, with a net 220 pubs having closed down in the 17 year-period, figures show.
There are also far fewer pubs in areas around Manchester, such as Rochdale, where there are now a net 105 fewer pubs than in 2001.
The ONS said the biggest declines had been seen in many areas on the edges of big cities and in the commuter belt, like Burnley, Bolton and Rochdale around Manchester and Barking and Dagenham on the outskirts of the capital.
However, some of the areas with a higher inflow of tourists have seen a rise in the number of pubs opening such as Highland Scotland, Ceredigion in West Wales, and South Lakeland, as well as seaside towns like Scarborough, Blackpool and Brighton.
The hipster London borough of Hackney, which in recent years has witnessed the opening of many new craft breweries, now has 30 more pubs than in 2001.
In comparison, there are now around 25 fewer pubs in the outer borough of Barking and Dagenham than in 2001.
‘Most pubs in the UK are small, independently owned businesses – and it is mainly these kinds of pub that have closed over the last decade,’ the report says.
Decline: ONS data confirm the large fall in the number of pubs
‘But the number of independently-owned larger pubs is steadily rising.’
Small pub chains, which are often regional, family-owned businesses, have also switched their focus away from small pubs towards medium and large bars, the ONS said.
Meanwhile large ‘pubcos’ with 250 or more outlets have been offloading small pubs over the past two decades, concentrating instead on their bigger bars.
It comes as last week one of the largest UK pub owners and operators – EI Group – said a number of buyers were interested in its portfolio of 400 pubs, which it had put up for sale earlier this year.
The news raised concerns a sale could result in some closures or pubs being turned into flats.
The ONS data also show that, as many pubs have shut down, the remaining ones seem to have soaked up custom from them, employing more people.
In 2008, pubs in the UK had a median number of five employees. By 2018, partly due to the closure of many smaller pubs, this had increased to eight employees, the ONS said.
Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said the Government should act quickly to save pubs from extinction, and called for an urgent reform to business rates, a full review of the Pubs Code, and a lower rate of duty for beer sold in pubs.
CAMRA’s chief campaigns and communications officer Tom Stainer said: ‘These shocking new figures show the huge loss that has been felt by communities up and down the country as beloved locals have closed down.
‘By focussing on the stability of turnover from pubs and bars since the recession this study fails to measure the loss of the benefits that local pubs bring to their communities. Pubs play a unique role in offering a social environment to enjoy a drink with friends, they help combat isolation and loneliness and help people feel connected to their community.’