Pub industry celebrates the end of a successful year

Despite the tough economy, the UK's pub and bar industry has "much to celebrate" as 2012 draws to a close.

That was the message delivered by Jonathan Neame, chairman of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), at a recent annual industry event at the House of Commons, in which he highlighted the way high profile events such as the Olympics have helped to boost Britain's pub industry.

"From the Diamond Jubilee to our sporting success, beer and pubs have been at the heart of every local celebration up and down the land," he said.

"British hospitality has been on show throughout the summer, particularly during the Olympics and, dare one say, it exceeded our own expectations for the warmth and welcome we have provided."

However, as well as short term factors such as these, evidence has emerged in the past 12 months to suggest long term trends are also helping to raise sales and profits in the pub and bar sector, said Mr Neame.

"Consumer interest in beer is higher than it’s ever been with licensees and new consumers discovering the vitality, range and creativity of British brewers," he commented.

He pointed to figures showing that cask ale sales in the UK are seeing growth for the first time in many years, while there are now 1,000 brewing enterprises across Britain.

"Consumer interest in eating or staying in a pub also has never been higher with over 1 billion meals a year being served by 1 million people, half of whom are under 25, in what is now the biggest eating out sector in the UK," added Mr Neame.

"As an industry, we have had an incredibly full year but with much to celebrate."

All this could be good news for those pub jobs and bar work, with evidence to suggest a growing number of pub companies are now looking at expanding and taking on new staff over the coming year.

Indeed, last week saw one of the UK's biggest bar and pub operators, JD Wetherspoon, unveil plans to open an additional 30 pubs in 2013, in locations such as Cardiff, Fort William, Selby, Whitby, New Brighton and Fraserburgh.

This will see it take on an extra 1,200 employees.

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: "We are looking forward to opening the new pubs, many of which will be in areas where Wetherspoon is not yet represented.

"We are also pleased to be creating so many new jobs, especially during a recession."

However, according to the BBPA, for the pub industry to really push on in 2013, an urgent review of the level of tax paid by pub operators as well as the amount of VAT on beer paid by customers is needed.

"[We] want to prove to all political parties that we should be a priority partner for government as one of the few sectors that has an economic footprint in every constituency and can create high quality jobs for young people and drive local investment faster than almost any other sector of the economy," said Mr Neame.

"But we need to be able to make an acceptable level of return for our efforts. And wherever you look in the sector all roads lead to excessive, oppressive and regressive taxation and 2013 is the year we need to see change in this policy."

Meanwhile, a recent ComRes poll carried out on behalf of the BBPA suggests UK pubs could enjoy a further boost to profits over the festive period.

It found that six million British adults said they planned to visit a pub on Christmas Day, while approximately 425 million pints of beer will be enjoyed in the nation's pubs throughout December.

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