Warning Brexit could lead to more pub closures in Scotland

The Crown Inn, which closed this week.
The Crown Inn, which closed this week.

More pubs could close across Tayside and Fife because of Brexit uncertainty and rising costs, it has been warned.

The alarm has been raised by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), which says more than 25% of pubs across the UK have shut since 2001.

Now the publicans’ body has warned others may be forced to shut their doors for good because of rising costs, soaring rates bills and uncertainty caused by the UK’s departure from the EU.

It comes in the week popular watering holes The Crown Inn in Monifieth and The Bell Rock Tavern in Tayport both shut down without warning.

Paul Waterson, spokesman for the SLTA, said: “The long-term outlook, with Brexit hanging over us and costs going up, is not good, but it’s not good for a lot of businesses.

“We’ve been hit by government legislation as much as anything and a lot of well run pubs, particularly in rural areas, have lost access to their markets.”

Last year pub chain Greene King warned a No Deal Brexit could disrupt the supply chain for pubs, raise the cost of imports, and limit access to labour as well as a general slowdown of the British economy.

Mr Waterson said the traditional pub, which does not offer food or other entertainment, may not survive.

He said: “Pubs are definitely changing their offering.

“Traditional-style pubs without food, outdoor areas for other smokers or other amenities have found it very difficult.”

He added the introduction of the smoking ban in 2006 and tougher drink drive laws had also made it harder.

Mr Waterson said: “We’ve seen about 21% of pubs close over the past seven or eight years in Scotland, which is about the same rate as the UK.

“The smoking ban was a game changer and cheap drink in supermarkets – people drinking at home – is still a problem.

“Now 75% of alcohol sold in Scotland is sold through the off-trade.”

Unlike supermarkets, pubs are charged rates based on turnover.

Although this is capped at 12.5%, it means the more pubs sell, the more they have to pay.

Dundee now has 35 fewer pubs than it did in 2001 and 1,000 fewer people are employed in the industry.

However, the city remains above the national average for pubs per population, with 6.7 watering holes per 10,000 people. Nationally the figure is 5.8.

David Glass, president of the Dundee Licensed Trade Association, said there was still optimism among publicans in the city.

He said: “There is definitely a feel-good factor in Dundee.

“People have said there are too many hotels but these companies don’t come into a city on a whim.”

David, who has owned Doc Ferry’s in Broughty Ferry since 1998, added: “The pub is still a cornerstone of society, especially in local communities.

“There is no denying businesses have maybe had their fingers burned in the past, not realising the scale of what they’ve got themselves into.

“The days of someone coming in and owning a pub and leaving others to run it have probably gone now.”