23 Red Lions. Simon Carruthers
The number of pubs in England is in steep decline. Between 2006 and 2012 an average of 23 pubs permanently closed their doors each and every week. The finger of blame is often pointed at the big supermarkets selling discounted booze, the stalling economy and the smoking ban introduced in England in mid 2007. Property developers and supermarkets have been accused of predatory purchasing especially where high street pubs occupy sizable plots or include car parking space. Tesco alone has recently acquired 130 pub sites, intended for Metro convenience stores. Each of these factors has no doubt had a significant impact on the number of pub closures but there is a lesser-known and potentially more consequential reason for the high numbers of failures.
Half of the pubs in England are operated by PubCos – large property companies who lease pubs out to tenant landlords. PubCos are accused of squeezing profits from landlords by monopolising and overpricing the alcohol they supply to their landlords and charging rents well above market value. Otherwise successful businesses are being forced to close because landlords are unable to draw a living wage whilst PubCos reap the profits.
The reasons may be numerous but the fact is singular: England’s public houses are closing down at an unprecedented rate – during the last decade the overall number has been reduced by 15%. This matters because it is a blow to a fundamental of English culture, but mostly it matters because all too often a pub is the focal point for a community.
23 Red Lions is an England-wide survey of Red Lion pubs that closed down between 2006 and 2012. The series is titled after the most common pub name in England.