Ahead of his autumn statement on Thursday, the British Beer and Pub Association has made a last pitch please to the chancellor for a freeze in beer duty ahead of Christmas.
Highlighting new figures, the letter shows the average costs for pubs and brewers were up 22% at the end of this summer compared to 2021, even before colder months started to set in.
The association stresses that soaring prices are forcing businesses to pass on costs to their customers at the bar, with the average price of a pint up 8% on last year.
Highlighting soaring costs across the entire supply chain, and ongoing uncertainty about whether they will receive support with unmanageable energy costs beyond March, the letter says the freeze would help to keep the price of a pint affordable and ensure customers aren’t deterred from a trip to their local this festive period.
UK beer sales are already down 10% on the same period last year. And, shockingly, more than 50 pubs a month are closing.
The letter cautions that failing to introduce the beer duty freeze would take the tax to its highest ever historical record at a time of severe pressure for the industry. Reinstating it would channel £360m back to pubs and breweries.
“We are caught in an extremely vicious circle,” said Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA. “Customers are understandably being cautious, but the cost of doing business is out of control and, as a result, this is set to be the toughest Christmas on memory for UK pubs and brewers.
“Many just managed to pull through the pandemic, but what we are facing now is crippling businesses at an unprecedented rate. We need the beer duty freeze reinstated to alleviate at least some of the cost pressure on our pubs and brewers, and to avoid undermining the crucial alcohol duty reform measures to be implemented in 2023.
“The last thing these pubs want to do is put prices up for customers who are struggling themselves with the cost of living. They want to provide a warm and welcoming space for their communities, especially in this acutely difficult time, but without relief from the government it’s difficult to see how many will continue to do so.”
Oliver Robinson, joint managing director of Robinsons Brewery, which operates 260 pubs across the North West and North Wales, said: “For months, there has been absolutely no let-up in the costs being piled onto our business. We are seeing unprecedented price increases across the business, but especially on raw materials, and if these were all passed on it would make the cost of a pint almost unaffordable in many pubs.
“News of the beer duty freeze by the former chancellor provided a ray of hope, but the subsequent U-turn has not helped the mood and we urgently need the chancellor to reinstate it to provide some let-up.
“Beyond this, there needs to be some parity created. We need a VAT reduction within our sector to make sure it can be allowed to thrive once again, not just survive. We want to be in a position where we are supporting and funding government in a fair way, not one that is unsustainable.”