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Devon Pub Sales On The Rise Despite Ongoing UK Wide Closures

Devon Pub Sales On The Rise Despite Ongoing UK Wide Closures

Posted: Monday 4 March 2019

While the nationwide campaign to prevent the country’s pubs from permanent closure goes on, the latest figures suggest the tide is turning. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) - UK promoter and champion of pubs and real ale - has confirmed the rate of pub closures has slowed down, but the number still remains too high, leaving much work to do.

Closure figures in full
Back in the mid-1970s, Britain had a healthy mix of backstreet boozers, country pubs, and welcoming inns along every highway and byway. Fast forward 40 years and figures that once reached around 75,000 now come to a little over 47,000 - with at least 13,000 closures since 2001 (ONS).

With the latest CAMRA figures, we can now see the rate of pub closures across Britain has slowed from 52 per week (January to June 2009) to around 14. While it sounds hopeful, even positive, it’s still an alarming amount.

To put it in context, the numbers equate to a total of 378 pubs closing their doors permanently in the six months between July and December 2018. With 339 closures, it leaves England with 40,683 pubs. With 23 closing in Scotland, only 2,901 now remain, and with 16 calling last orders in Wales, only 3,612 are still open.

CAMRA speak out
National Chairperson for CAMRA, Jackie Parker, commented recently, “Pubs are a very important part of our national culture and are valuable community assets that help to combat loneliness and social isolation. It’s great we’ve seen a drop in the number of pubs closing, showing that our hard-fought campaign to get planning protection for pubs was worth it.”

Addressing recent Government legislation, she continued, “Protecting pubs in the English planning system was a necessity and a welcome move from the Government. But, it’s taken almost two years for the trickle-down effects of the planning changes to show. Our politicians should back the asks of the Save Our Pubs Campaign in full, and show they are squarely behind pubs.”

South-west sales on the rise
Though Britain shows a moving scale of closures in the same six month period - the south-east faced 63 closures while the north-east suffered only a quarter of that at 17 - the south-west seems to be going through something of a purple patch. While no stranger to pub closures of its own, from our commercial viewpoint, we’re seeing a definite resurgence in a sector that continues to see more and more successful transactions.

With the south-west reliant on the tourism and leisure industries, each sale is good for our economy, and it seems that pubs in tourist-heavy areas are thriving. It’s even more heartening to see the recovery of the sector while the high street restaurant and retail markets continue to face big challenges.

Destination pubs are key
While the current strong appetite among buyers for pubs in Devon continues to flourish, recent Charles Darrow transactions hint at a period of extended activity. Licensed venues in central Exeter, including the freehold sale of the renowned The Old Fire House, rumoured to be the highest value sale of a pub without rooms in Devon and the high street leasehold acquisition of new Irish sports bar, The Stand Off, show positive signs are returning.

But it’s the traditional locals that remain sought after properties and key to an improving sector. Destination pubs across the county, whether freehold or leasehold, continue to attract heavy interest and robust sales.

The leasehold on Plympton’s 17th-Century coaching Inn, The George, has recently sold to first-time operators looking to continue the pub’s prosperity. The leasehold on the historic Cridford Inn in Trusham on the outskirts of Dartmoor, again sold to first-time operators from Surrey. And mid-Devon village pub, The Ashill Inn, saw its leasehold sold to an experienced operator, looking to build on its already healthy turnover. While funding remains challenging in the leasehold market place, activity is still positive – for the right opportunity.

The right backing
Despite stories of a continued downturn in the licensed trade (and perhaps the wider economy), these Charles Darrow sales are shining examples of the unmistakable demand for profitable pubs in good locations. While many banks continue to be hesitant lending for a market and sector that remains volatile, it shows that with the right mix of people and backing, there’s life in the pub trade yet - particularly here in the south-west.