More than a quarter of Britain’s pubs have closed their doors since the turn of the turn of the century, according to “shocking” official figures that have prompted fresh calls for government action.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of pubs had fallen from 52,500 in 2001 to 38,815, with pubs on the outskirts of major cities most likely to have called last orders for the final time.

More than 10,000 pubs have shut down over the past 10 years, with small local pubs the worst affected as they bear the brunt of rising beer duty and business rates.

At the same time  the big pub chains are consolidating their businesses around bigger bars, while they dispose of small locals.

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.

“With a quarter of pubs closing in the last decade, we need the government to act now to save our pubs from extinction.

“That’s why CAMRA has launched a three-point plan to save the Great British pub, calling for urgent reform to business rates, an urgent and full review of the Pubs Code, and a lower rate of duty for beer sold in pubs.”

But these figures don’t tell the full story of how the UK pub trade is changing. Although hundreds of pubs have closed, the total industry turnover of pubs and bars been constant, remaining flat since 2008, once inflation is taken into account. The remaining pubs and bars appear to have soaked up the custom from those pubs that have closed down.

Employment figures back this up: while the number of jobs in pubs dipped during the economic downturn, there are now six per cent more jobs in pubs and bars than there were in 2008.

The largest increases have been in bigger pubs (those with 10 or more employees). This may be because pubs are increasingly focussed on serving food as well as drink, which requires more waiting and kitchen staff.

The areas where pub numbers have held up – or even increased – include several popular tourist areas, such as Highland Scotland, Ceredigion in West Wales, and South Lakeland, as well as many seaside towns like Scarborough, Blackpool and Brighton.

Pub numbers also remained stable in some cities, including Newcastle, Milton Keynes, York, and in the London borough of Hackney.

CAMRA members are asked to email their MPs, and promote the Campaign’s three point plan to save pubs. Visit www.camra.org.uk/saveourpubs

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