Shocking data exposes London pub decline

The Admiralty

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has pledged to help halt the decline in the number of pubs in the capital, as new figures released yesterday revealed the number of locals has fallen by a quarter since 2001. 

The figures show that an extraordinary 1,220 pubs have been lost in the last 15 years. In 2001, there were 4,835 pubs in London. By 2016, this had fallen by 25% to 3,615 – an average loss of 81 pubs per year.

Two London boroughs reported a loss of more than half of their pubs – Barking and Dagenham (a loss of 56%) and Newham (52%).

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Other badly-affected boroughs include Croydon (45%), Waltham Forest (44%), Hounslow (42%) and Lewisham (41%). Hackney, the only borough that did not report an overall loss, has seen an increase of 3% since 2001.

The decline of the number of pubs in the capital follows increasing pressure on hospitality businesses, including rises in business rates, conflicts with residents and developers and the relaxation of permitted development rights in 2015 – which allows certain types of development to go ahead without planning permission.

The audit of London’s public houses is the first strand of the Mayor’s Cultural Infrastructure Plan for 2030 – which sets out to identify what is needed in order to sustain London’s future as a cultural capital.

The Cultural Infrastructure Plan will take into account a wide range of cultural assets, from dance studios to theatres and artist studios to nightclubs, with a view to embedding culture into the forthcoming London Plan, the Mayor’s development strategy for the capital, ensuring that culture is planned in a similar way to other vital services, such as housing and transport.

As part of his commitment to the capital’s pubs, Sadiq has committed to working together with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to undertake an annual audit, so that the number of pubs in the capital can be tracked more closely, and efforts can be made to stem the flow of closures in the city.

As well as being intrinsic to London’s culture, public houses are also a vital economic driver, providing the first taste of work for many young people, generating one in six of all news jobs among 18-24 year olds.

Although the number of pubs in the capital has dramatically fallen, employment in pubs has grown by 3,700 to reach 46,300 in 2016, an increase of almost 9%.

Mr Khan stated: “The Great British Pub is at the heart of the capital’s culture. From traditional workingmen’s clubs to cutting-edge micro-breweries, London’s locals are as diverse and eclectic as the people who frequent them.

“That’s why I’m shocked at the rate of closure highlighted by these statistics, and why we have partnered with CAMRA to ensure we can track the number of pubs open in the capital and redouble our efforts to stem the rate of closures.”

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers has welcomed the move to help support the capital’s pubs.

Chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see the Mayor acknowledging the vital contribution being made by pubs and confirm his support for the sector. Pubs, bars and late-night venues are an essential part of the UK’s culture and they play an indispensible economic role; this is abundantly evident in the capital. The Mayor’s report recognises the unique role that pubs play and highlights the challenges being faced by these businesses.

“The ALMR has been liaising with the Mayor’s Office and it is great to see many of the issues that we have raised being carefully considered, particularly the damage cause by increasing rates bills, and barriers to growth in the late-night sector.”

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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