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Pub insolvencies hit decade high

Nearly 800 pubs entered insolvency in 2023 – the highest number in over a decade.

According to data from accountancy firm Price Bailey, 769 pubs closed across the UK, which marked a 48% jump from the 518 closures recorded in 2022.

Price Bailey said the final figure was likely to be higher, as more pubs would have been closed by multi-site groups that did not enter insolvency.

There were 38,175 pubs in the UK at the end of 2023, down from 41,015 a decade earlier.

Data obtained by Price Bailey under the Freedom of Information Act also revealed there were on average 2.1 pub closures per day in 2023, up from 1.4 per day in 2022.

The closures were accelerated by issues such as soaring costs across the board, customers struggling with lower disposable income, train strikes and high interest rates, which hit 5.25% by the end of the year.

The government's £18b energy support package for businesses also tapered away towards the end of Q1 2023, which aggravated cost pressures for publicans.

However, despite the persistent closures among large pub chains and small independent pubs, Price Bailey said independent craft breweries and themed pubs with a competitive socialising element were generally proving more resilient.

Matt Howard, head of the insolvency and recovery team at Price Bailey, said: '2023 saw the highest level of pub failures in over a decade. While there are some glimmers of hope, underlying trading conditions remain challenging and rising labour costs continue to exert strong pressure on margins.

'Publicans are still restricting opening hours and scaling back the services they provide to customers during off-peak hours. While it can provide a short-term boost to profitability to focus on the most profitable business hours, it can come at the cost of long-term customer relationships.'