We were surprised to note from Ron Pattinson’s very useful compilation of beer- and pub-related statistics that the number of pubs in England and Wales increased in the forty years up to 2001.
What is particularly confusing is that numbers from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) seem to show the opposite. Here they are plotted against each other on a graph:
Perhaps the BBPA are defining ‘pubs’ very precisely? Guess we’ll have to save up for a copy of their Bumper Book of Statistics to find out.
We haven’t yet identified a set of UK Government figures that deal specifically with pubs over a very long period, but the graph below is based on their numbers for licences to sell alcohol in England and Wales for 1960 to 2010. (We’ve also used UK population stats from Wikipedia to give a rough on-licence-per-head indicator.)
Even assuming that a good number of those new licences are for cafes and restaurants, this doesn’t seem to show a catastrophic collapse in the number of places where booze is available.
This is, of course, just an early morning pondering session, and we’re not drawing any firm conclusions just yet, but we do have a theory: if pubs are closing en masse, it is in post-industrial communities, and is a symptom of localised economic decline rather than a wholesale rejection by communities of the very idea of the pub.
We’ll let Ron have the final word, from a note accompanying his statistics page: ‘All I can remember are pub closures and derelict boozers on every other corner. Just shows the value of subjective observations.’
Can anyone point to reliable statistics on the numbers of pubs opening and closing, ideally from a source other than an industry or lobbying group whose argument depends on a story of woe?