Pubs serving as a community hub should be entitled to a tax relief, according to a leading think tank – an idea supported by Tolworth landlords.
The “Pubs and Places” report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, published earlier this month, suggests that the government could introduce a mandatory 50 per cent business rate relief for any pubs acting as a centre of community.
The social value of pubs is measured against a series of criteria, including organising charitable events, hosting scout and church meetings and providing information for local events.
In Tolworth, a mainly residential area of the Kingston borough served only by a handful of pubs, this proposal was well-received by landlords.
“If we can get any help to reduce our business expenses, it would be very helpful,” said Anil Ani, landlord of the Broadway Bar Cafe. “If fulfilling some of these (criteria) can save us money, then it would be a good idea.”
“However, we do most of these things already. We offer parlour games, have flyers for local events and offer secure car park to customers. We also organised a huge event and raised £1,400 for the Mayor’s charity,” Mr Ani added.
The proposal gained much attention as it came in a difficult period for pubs all around the country. Earlier this month, the Campaign for Real Ale revealed that an average of 16 pubs a week were closing in the second half of 2011. The increase of the beer duty in the last Budget by 7.2 per cent has also affected the sector negatively.
“This January has been very quiet,” said Mr Ani. “It’s getting more and more difficult to survive, as the prices are going up.”
“This month the price will go up 20p a pint and people on a budget will think twice about going out. When I started this job four years ago, the cheapest pint was at £1.89 – now it is at £2.99.”
Paul Wilkinson, manager of The Royal Oak pub, focused on competition with supermarkets: “It affects us massively. People have something to drink before they come out and they eventually don’t spend as much here.”
As a predominantly residential neighbourhood, Tolworth cannot boast the high number of shoppers and visitors of central Kingston – a fact that is reflected on local pubs’ clientele.
“Most of our customers are from around here; we are not like a West End pub,” said Mr Ani, while Mr Wilkinson added, “We don’t get shoppers who come for a pint afterwards. Our customers are locals who want to spend some time to the pub after work.”