Community pubs closing a rate of six per month, warns CAMRA

REAL ale campaigners have called for action after new figures revealed that six community pubs are closing in East Anglia each month.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has called on the Government to do more after new research showed that across the UK more than 1,000 pubs have closed in the past two years.

Nigel Smith, area organiser for Suffolk CAMRA, said action needed to be taken to protect pubs in rural areas, where the pressure on trade is greatest.

He said: “I think it’s been going on for years now, this whole process of pubs in a decline, and I can’t see any end to it. Government legislation has been fairly relentless. Concerns over responsible drinking have affected pubs unfairly when compared to other places selling alcohol.”

CAMRA wants business rate relief for pubs acting as ‘centres of a community’, reform of planning laws which prevent pubs from being demolished without the need for planning permission, and improved relations between large pub companies and their lessees to offer a guest beer option and an option to become ‘free of tie’ accompanied by an open market rent review.

Mike Benner, the organisation’s chief executive, added: “Pubs are vital for social cohesion and cultural integration, and therefore the Government must act swiftly to repair the damage inflicted upon local communities by offering genuine support for enterprising and hard-working licensees.

“This research also further underlines the major problems caused by many hard-working pub lessees being unable to buy their beer on the open market, restricted by punitive measures imposed by greedy pub companies.”

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Communities Minister Bob Neill said the Government was already taking “decisive action” to support community pubs.

He said: “We have doubled small business rate relief for two-and-a-half years, which gives up to 100% rate relief for small firms including pubs.

“Country pubs may also be eligible for rural business rate relief.

“On top of this, we have abolished the last Government’s cider tax, are cutting red tape on live music in pubs, and are stopping unfair sales of alcohol below cost-price by supermarkets.

“We are also giving local councils new powers to introduce local business rate discounts, which could support pubs which offer community facilities.”