Rising Energy Costs Could Mean Bad News For UK Pubs

Do you fancy a pint of ale at the pub? If so, you might have trouble even finding a local watering hole in the U.K. by next spring, according to The Morning Advertiser, a trade magazine for the pub industry. In an article published earlier this week, the outlet reported some grim news. In a recent survey of pub owners conducted by the magazine, more than 70% said they feared being able to remain open in the absence of some kind of government aid.

In case you haven't heard, the U.K. is currently facing an energy crisis that's crippling businesses and individuals alike. According to CNN, wholesale natural gas prices started to rise last year as countries reopened after COVID shutdowns, spiking an increase in global demand that was complicated by limitations on Russia-supplied fossil fuels and coal provoked by the country's invasion of Ukraine. 

Now, the energy crisis has reached a breaking point, with the U.K. National Health Service warning of a winter in which Brits will "face the awful choice between skipping meals to heat their homes and having to live in cold, damp, and very unpleasant conditions." U.K. businesses are not, of course, immune to the surges in energy costs. With small business owners facing unprecedented inflation at the same time as the energy crisis, many are thinking about hanging up their hats, according to CNBC.

Some pub owners have seen their energy costs rise 500%

In its recent survey, The Morning Advertiser spoke with some desperate pub owners — 8% of them — who reported energy bill increases of 500% percent. A surprising 30% of respondents also reported increases of 200%, and 65% of respondents said they'd seen their energy bills go up by more than 100%. Ed Bedington, editor of The Morning Advertiser, warned of an "extinction event" of pubs after this winter — and its high heating costs — if the government does not step in to cap energy prices for businesses, reduce their value-added taxes, or other measures suggested by frustrated pub owners. 

"Action needs to be taken now to protect businesses," one respondent told The Morning Advertiser. "It was hard enough making it through COVID times, this is now absolutely ridiculous."

In a separate article, The Morning Advertiser advised pub owners on how to cut down on their energy bills, suggesting actions such as raising refrigerator temperatures from five to seven degrees Celsius, only turning on kitchen equipment as needed, and looking into energy-efficient appliances. Some pub owners interviewed hoped to take advantage of an age-old and free means of heating their businesses — crowds. 

"We're only a cosy little pub, but if I get 40 to 30 people in here, then I don't need to put the heating on," White Swan Owner, Gareth Ostick, told the outlet.