Last Call for Britain's Pubs?

Between new taxes, a smoking ban and the economic downturn, many towns and cities in the UK may soon lose their local pubs.
April 6, 2009, 11am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"The public house has always held a unique place at the heart of British life: It's where families would congregate for Christmas Day and Sunday roasts, and where co-workers still can be found many nights, ushered out the door at 11 p.m. with the publican's famous farewell ('time, gentlemen, please') sounding fuzzily in their ears. A thousand years ago, the Domesday Book listed a fine of four shillings for selling poor-quality beer.

It's estimated that 2,000 British pubs will close this year. The first nail in the public house's coffin was, ironically, a measure to prolong life, the 2007 smoking ban. Tenacious owners who survived were then hit with two more mallets. First, the government introduced the beer tax [and] most pub landlords, required to buy beer from the breweries that own them, were faced with a hike in prices, which they passed on to customers.

If the taverns of London and Liverpool and Glasgow are weathering a storm, the forecast is just as glum for their country cousins. A report this week from the Institute for Public Policy Research said the village pub is at risk unless the government offers some relief in the form of tax breaks to landlords or planning protection against redevelopment. The demise of the town watering hole, the report says, will have 'a serious impact on the quality of local community life.' Many English villages are losing not just pubs but essential services - shops, post offices, schools and churches."

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Published on Saturday, April 4, 2009 in The Globe and Mail
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