Bedford has the same number of pubs as before the pandemic – despite boozers continuing to disappear from communities across the country.
The coronavirus pandemic placed extraordinary pressure on pubs and the hospitality sector as national lockdowns forced closures, while demand took a hit as punters chose to stay at home to avoid catching the virus.
New data from real estate advisers Altus Group shows there were 112 pubs in Bedford as of June – the same as in March 2020, before the first coronavirus lockdown.
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Across the East of England there have been 87 closures since the start of the pandemic, including 24 this year.
Altus Group said pubs proved “remarkably resilient" during the pandemic.
However, its UK president Robert Hayton warned they are now dealing with "soaring energy costs, inflationary pressures and tax rises” which may force more to close.
Pub numbers across England and Wales have dropped below 40,000 for the first time, with 200 lost between the end of 2021 and the end of June.
This decline started long before the pandemic – nationally 7,000 pubs have been shuttered over the last decade.
The figures cover pubs that pay business rates, including those vacant and offered to let.
Research by the British Beer and Pub Association, British Institute of Innkeeping and UKHospitality shows only 37% of hospitality businesses are turning a profit at present.
The rising costs of energy, goods and labour have been blamed for falling profits, and the industry is now calling on the Government to provide more support.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “As a sector we have just weathered the hardest two years in memory, and we now face the challenge of extreme rising costs, with only one in three hospitality businesses currently profitable.
“It’s essential that we receive relief to ease these pressures, or we really do risk losing more pubs year on year.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy said: “We understand the challenges that the pubs sector is facing.
"This is why we are supporting pubs across the UK with 50% business rates relief, freezing alcohol duty rates on beer, cider, wine and spirits and increasing the employment allowance.”