The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) says viable community pubs are being driven out of business by crippling business rates, and has called on the government to bring in annual relief worth £5,000 per pub.
Many businesses were faced with a steep rise in rates when new valuations came into force in April. Though pubs in England with a rateable value of less than £100,000 have been given £1,000 off their business rates bill already, CAMRA claims that the rises mean pubs are faced with selling tens of thousands of extra pints of beer every year to cover the rise.
CAMRA is asking attendees of this week’s Great British Beer Festival, to back the campaign by calling on their MPs to address the ‘sky-high’ tax burden on pubs which it says is contributing to 21 pub closures a week.
New research by YouGov collected on behalf of CAMRA has found that the public ‘overwhelmingly’ supports an urgent tax break for pubs, with 69% of those surveyed saying they should be given relief.
Colin Valentine, CAMRA’s national chairman said: ‘Taxes now make up more than a third of the cost of a pub pint. Despite the fact that pubs currently account for 0.5% of turnover of the UK economy, they are still paying 2.8% of the business rates. This is frankly unsustainable, and it is the consumer that will ultimately pay the price - whether it's when their beloved local closes down or when the price of their pint goes up.’
Sean Hughes, landlord of The Boot pub in St Albans, will face a business rates increase of 280% over the next five years from £14,000 a year to £52,000.
‘Our new business rates bill means that we would have to sell an additional 22,000 pints of beer a year just to pay for the increase,’ he said. ‘I can’t see how we're going to do that – it leaves us in a very difficult situation. We’ve already had to increase our beer prices by 10p per pint, and expect that to increase to 35p per pint. If our customers can’t afford a pint at the pub they will go elsewhere.’
BBPA chief executive, Brigid Simmonds, welcomed CAMRA’s call for more business rates relief. ‘This is something we called for in the BBPA manifesto for the General Election, so it is hugely welcome that CAMRA, which represents over 180,000 consumers, is also backing £5,000 in pub-specific rate relief,’ she said.
‘CAMRA is right to highlight that pubs are very unfairly disadvantaged by the current rates system. As a sector, we pay per 2.8% of the total business rates bill, but only generate 0.5% of turnover. We need a wholesale review of the current system and, at the very least, need to bring those who benefit from online sales into paying more of their share,’ she added.
CAMRA is also calling on the chancellor to freeze beer duty for the rest of the parliament.