Hospitality Ulster launches ‘long live the local' campaign to support pubs trade
THE British government must cut its "devastatingly high beer taxes" to help save the north's beleaguered pubs sector, an umbrella group for the trade is demanding.
A quarter of all pubs in Northern Ireland have stopped pulling pints in the last two decades, with 88 hostelries being forced to shut in the last year alone - equal to one every four days.
Two decades ago there were more than 3,000 pubs in the north, whereas today the figure is 1,210.
Yet the hospitality sector is still responsible for one in every 20 jobs in Northern Ireland, generating £653 million in wages, paying £88.4 million in taxes and contributing £1.1 billion to the region's economy.
And now Hospitality Ulster has joined the ‘Long Live the Local' campaign, part of a co-ordinated UK-wide fight along with the British Beer & Pub Association and Britain's Beer Alliance, to support local pubs.
They will lobby local MPs and ultimately take their fight to Westminster to seek cuts in duty.
Between 2008 and 2013 the government increased beer duty every year, and the level of beer duty in Northern Ireland and Britain is now 12 times higher than Germany.
Across the UK between 2008 and 2013, when beer duty was increased five times, beer sales fell 24 per cent in pubs, 5,000 pubs closed and 58,000 pub and brewing related jobs were lost.
Yet despite the series of draconian tax rises on beer since 2008, a new survey has found that people in Northern Ireland still say the local is at the heart of their community.
Some 43 per cent of people insist their local pub is a social centre for the community, with 56 per cent saying it is a place to relax and socialise with friends.
"We have long defended our great local pubs and are proud to bring the ‘Long Live the Local' campaign to Northern Ireland, where we desperately need a cut in beer duty to support our local pubs,'' Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said.
"Our pubs are at the centre of our communities, they provide a place for local people to go, employment for local people and are, of course, a key part of our tourist offering.
"Yet they have been completely and unfairly attacked with a series of beer duty rises between 2008 and 2013, which has really hurt their ability to attract customers.
"It is outrageous that beer duty is at its current level, it can only lead to one thing – pub closures, job losses and the heart being taken out of communities across Northern Ireland. This is having a devastating impact on pubs across the region and it must stop."
Mr Neill added: "Our campaign is also encouraging customers to support and celebrate their local pub and the invaluable contribution it makes to communities the length and breadth of Northern Ireland.
"Our local pubs need to be supported and that is the message we will be sending out strongly in the coming weeks and months.''