The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called for a united effort from government, local authorities and the pub industry to help protect the future of the capital’s pubs, as he released new figures showing that there has been a long-term decline.
The figures, published today, show that while pub numbers have increased in Hackney, City of London, Camden, Bexley, Greenwich, Hounslow and Lewisham, the numbers overall in London have fallen by 2.4%, from 3,615 to 3,530.
In an effort to save them, Khan has since appointed a Night Czar to promote the capital as a 24-hour city and has established a world-first ‘Culture at Risk’ office to help save community pubs.
The mayor wants the government to review its valuation policy for pubs following large rises in business rates which are saddling pub owners with soaring bills. He also wants to see the government use its powers on planning, taxation and regulation to help support pubs.
Between 2000 and 2018, demolition of pubs has been the most common reason for pub closures in London. Khan has called on local authorities to step up to become stewards of their local pubs and to use the tighter planning powers in his draft London Plan.
The mayor’s draft ‘London Plan’ has acknowledged the key role pubs play in communities by urging boroughs to resist applications to redevelop beer gardens, ensure new residential developments near to pubs are suitably soundproofed so they can co-exist, and support new pubs to be built.
Local authorities can also consider allowing extended opening hours, where appropriate, to help increase income and relieve pressures from business rates.
The problem of falling pub numbers is not a new one, with numbers declining since the 1960s. It is thought to be down to a number of pressures, including changing drinking habits, development, rising rents and business rates. Small pubs are the most vulnerable, with a 50% fall since 2001 (3,390 to 1,710 pubs) while the number of larger pubs has increased by 28% over the same period (405 to 1,445 pubs).
Although the number of pubs in London fell in 2016/17, the number of people employed by pubs has remained steady at 46,400 people.
The mayor will also be commissioning new research to help identify the full picture behind the falling numbers – particularly in small pubs – and give pubs more of the tools they need to help secure a more sustainable future.