Raising a glass to recovery: Supporting Britain's pubs in 2024 and beyond

28 December 2023, 12:49 | Updated: 28 December 2023, 12:57

Supporting Britain's Pubs in 2024
Supporting Britain's Pubs in 2024. Picture: Alamy

By Emma McClarkin OBE

As the Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, I have had the privilege of witnessing the resilience and tenacity of our nation's pubs in the face of three years of unprecedented challenges.

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The pandemic cast a long shadow over our nation’s pub sector, and the following crisis in energy bills, that remains the single biggest concern of pubs to this day, meant closure rates have been higher in 2023 than during the pandemic. Now, more than ever, we must rally behind our local pubs to ensure their survival and revival.

Our pubs are not just places to grab a pint; they are the heart of our communities, woven into the fabric of British culture. They are where friendships are forged, celebrations are marked, and memories are made.

Our role in this, as individuals, is to recognise the vital social and economic role our local pubs play in our communities. By choosing to spend our time and money at these establishments, we contribute to their survival and the preservation of a cornerstone of British identity, as well as fuelling a hub of the local economy that creates jobs and growth across a long, dynamic supply chain.

Of course, fundamental to the pub offer is great beer and there are nearly 2000 brewers across the UK producing an amazing range of high quality and diverse beers that are crucial to a thriving pub sector as well as being an integral part of the UK’s manufacturing base.

The BBPA’s Long Live The Local campaign, designed to harness the public’s desire to support our pubs and brewers and demonstrate this to Government, remains so important because putting our pubs back on the path to recovery in 2024 will require concerted action from the Government, not just individuals.

While November’s Autumn Statement made some important steps to this path, we still face beer duty 12 times higher than in Germany and well above the European average, energy bills that have barely begun to come down from their peak in 2022, and a business rates system long overdue for major reform.

With conditions like these, our sector will continue to only survive rather than thrive for the foreseeable future. Indeed, many countries in Europe have a permanently lower VAT rate for food and drink sales in the hospitality sector, and we saw what a boost this would be for a period during the pandemic.

We urge similar bold thinking to truly deliver long term sustainability and growth in an industry that already supports over 930,000 jobs across the length and breadth of the country.

The Government must understand that supporting pubs isn’t a cost for them, it’s an investment in our economy and our communities that they will see a major return on.

The pub will always be more than a place to grab a drink; it is a cornerstone of our communities and an essential part of our heritage. By actively choosing to support local pubs and the brewers that support them, and calling on the government to act, we can ensure a new dawn for this vital sector in 2024. Let us raise a glass to the future – a future where our pubs thrive, communities flourish, and all people can come together.

Cheers to the recovery of Britain's pub sector!