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Britain’s licensed venues drop below 100,000

Licensed premises in Britain have fallen by almost a third (31%) in the past 20 years, bringing the total to below 100,000 for the first time since 2003.

From 2003 to 2023, nearly a third of licensed venues in Britain have shut

More than 44,000 net venues have closed since 2003, equating to six closures every day for the past two decades.

At the end of September 2023, the total number of licensed premises in Britain was 99,916 – a 30.6% drop from the 144,055 recorded by CGA in 2003 and the first time it has entered five figures.

The new data comes from trade body UKHospitality in partnership with CGA by NIQ.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, said: “Given the shocking number of hospitality business closures exposed by these new figures, the last thing the sector needs is the potential £1 billion bill as a result of the business rates hike due in April.

“Our industry has proved time and again that, with the right conditions, it can drive national economic growth, invest in local communities and create jobs at all levels.

The autumn statement is an opportunity to extend the current business rates relief and freeze the current multiplier. In doing so, it can not only save more local and national businesses from closure but enable investment and growth.

“We also continue to ask the chancellor to consider more medium- to long-term measures to support the industry, such as reviewing the rate of VAT for hospitality and reforming the apprenticeship levy to give businesses more control and flexibility over funding.”

The biggest groups of closures were drinks-led pubs, bars and nightclubs, which have seen a net decline of 43.6% from 2003-2023.

Managed sites performed better than independent venues, up by 14.6% compared with a decline of 32.9%.

Casual dining and food-led pubs gave eating venues a boost, which were up by 14.8% overall.

More positively, UKHospitality noted that the wider hospitality industry has continued to grow its workforce, suggesting some of the losses were being offset by bigger venues – particularly food-focused sites.

Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s business unit director, added: “These figures show the steady contraction of Britain’s licensed premises over a 20-year period and that has accelerated in recent years with a triple whammy of Brexit, Covid and spiralling costs.

“But while the closures have negatively impacted communities and livelihoods, some trends have been positive, like the dramatic increase in the quantity and quality of restaurants and the success stories of multi-site operators.

“Demand for eating and drinking out is still strong and hospitality has a key role in connecting all our communities. The right government support is needed to ensure businesses can survive and help drive our economy.”

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