PUB companies must do more to stem the tide of ale house closures, says a Huddersfield pub champion.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) revealed yesterday that 36 pubs a week are shutting – 33% up from 2007.
Bob Tomlinson, spokesman for the Huddersfield and district branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said pubs were finding it hard to compete with supermarkets selling cheap alcohol.
He said the problem was compounded by sky-high utility bills for landlords and customers suffering a lack of cash because of the economic downturn.
But he added the companies that owned pubs were not helping the situation.
He said: “Pub companies have to relinquish their grip, either by reducing rents or making rent concessions, or by lessening the ties which mean that the landlord has to buy beer through the pub company, often at much higher rates than they would through free trade.
“If they could release the tie to let the landlord have one or two guest beers, that would help.”
The rate of pub closures is nine times faster than in 2006 and 18 times faster than in 2005. More than 1,400 pubs closed during 2007.
Many pubs in Huddersfield have shut their doors in recent months.
BBPA chief executive Rob Hayward said: “These numbers are a stark illustration of the pressures on the pub sector.
“Economic stresses and strains are being felt by every household across the country and acutely by Britain's public houses. Sliding consumer confidence and spiralling inflation are hitting pubs in two ways.
“Not only are the costs of running a pub increasing, but fewer people through the door means less cash in the tills.”
Mr Tomlinson said Huddersfield had coped better than some areas because there were more free houses in the area than others.
But he added: “We are very disappointed with the scale of pub closures. It’s even worse than it was during the Depression.
“It robs the community of one of their local resources. A pub’s not necessarily there just for drinking, it’s a meeting place – a social spot.
“With the current idea of combating binge drinking, the pub provides a facility where people can learn to drink responsibly, where young people can be among peers who can control things.
“You can’t control how people drink when they buy from supermarkets.”