Many of Britain’s pubs – already suffering thanks to Covid lockdowns and the increasing popularity of cheap supermarket booze – may be forced to “hibernate” this winter because of soaring bills.
The rising costs of heating, lighting and food have forced landlords to temporarily close their boozers and make staff redundant until next spring – when hopefully prices might have been brought under control.
Uncertainly over the government's plans for an energy price cap – with new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt tearing up almost all of PM Liz Truss’s plans – is only worsening the situation.
READ MORE: Brits face booze crisis as pubs issue grim beer shortage warning over gas supplies
Stella Coulthurst, landlady of The White Hart Inn, in the picturesque Berkshire village of Hamstead Marshall, is just one publican planning to shutter their business over the winter.
“During summer we worked flat out but we couldn’t keep ahead of the price rises, and at the end of every month, after we paid everyone, we realised we had to pay out of our savings,” she told The Times.
While she hasn’t given up yet, Stella says she fears that the White Hart will struggle to reopen next spring unless the government can get the economy under control.
“The arithmetic of profit and loss has to change,” she said. “If oil and gas and food prices stay high it’s not worth opening.”
As well as disappointing regulars, Stella says she worried about some of her staff, who will find it difficult to make ends meet over the Christmas period.
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Stella says she’s the only employer in her tiny village, close to the location for Downton Abbey, and she’s particularly concerned about one hard-working mum that she employs
“How will she make do, a good mother of a family who works hard?” She asks. “I don’t know how she will do it.”
The number of pubs in England and Wales has been falling steadily for some years, and hit a record low this year, according to recent research.
There were 39,970 pubs in June this year, down by more than 7,000 since 2012, said real estate consultancy Altus Group.
Robert Hayton, head of Altus in the UK, said: "Whilst pubs proved remarkably resilient during the pandemic, they're now facing new headwinds grappling with the cost of doing business in a crisis through soaring energy costs, inflationary pressures and tax rises."
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