The BBC is running an article about pub closures in Britain. In typical fashion, Auntie blames supermarkets and taxation while studiously avoiding the massive elephant in the room that is the smoking ban. No doubt excessive alcohol duty has exacerbated the situation for many boozers, and there is a longterm decline in pub numbers going back over a hundred years, but there can be no doubt that forcing many of their best customers out into the cold has been devastating for much of the UK pub trade.
I recently obtained the statistics showing the number of pubs in operation from the British Beer and Pub Association. Shown below, a picture is worth a thousand words...
A popular excuse of anti-smoking campaigners (who, let's not forget, predicted that pubs would benefit from a huge influx of nonsmokers) is to blame the post-2007 decline on the recession. But as you can see from the graph, not only did the big drop-off begin before the recession started, but the previous recessions of the early '80s and early '90s (shown as shaded areas above) did not lead to pubs closing at a faster rate. In fact, the data support the traditional view that pubs are 'recession-proof'.
Supermarkets did not suddenly start selling alcohol in 2007 and beer duty did not suddenly jump up. Something else must have happened in 2007 to cause this unprecedented decline in pub numbers. Something that happened on the same scale in Ireland when it began in 2004. Something that the pub trade has identified as the killer blow. Something that most publicans, even five years laters, still want to get rid off. Ooh, whatever could it be?