Pubs in crisis as bills rise

Most independent pub owners spoken to by the Dispatch say they are at risk of going out of business this winter, reports James Cracknell

The Arnos Arms in Arnos Grove is one of several independently-owned pubs said to be at risk of closure amid the current economic turmoil
The Arnos Arms in Arnos Grove is one of several independently-owned pubs at risk of closure –having reduced its opening hours to try and save money

Pubs across Enfield could go out of business within months as they face spiralling energy bills as well as lower sales from customers looking to save money amid rising inflation.

Although the government moved last month to limit rising energy costs for businesses, wholesale prices under the cap will still be around double what they were a year ago. Many pubs have also failed to recover the custom they have lost since the start of the pandemic.

Among seven Enfield publicans spoken to by the Dispatch, five said they thought their pubs would struggle to remain viable this winter if current trends continued.

Julie Waters, a manager working for The Taps and The Kings Head pubs in Enfield Town, said their energy bills had already risen from £500 to £800 per week. “Across the board, suppliers have put their prices up, which is affecting everything. Whatever they [the government] do, it won’t be enough. It is a drop in the ocean.

“It shouldn’t have been allowed to get out of control like this in the first place.”

Toni Duke from The King & Tinker in Whitewebbs Lane told a similar story. She said: “It is going extremely badly. We never recovered from the pandemic. These are worrying times.

“People don’t have the leisure money to spend so that affects us as well. We are very worried.”

Dan Fox, owner of The Arnos Arms in Arnos Grove, has reduced the pub’s opening hours to save money. “We could go bust,” he said. “I think anyone in hospitality, unless they have massive cash reserves, they are just living hand-to-mouth.

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“We are looking at paying twice what we were last year, which is better than six times more, but to survive we need to be where we were two or three years ago.”

Richard Reeve, from the award-winning Little Green Dragon in Winchmore Hill, said many venues had been “unlucky” depending on when their fixed-price energy deals expired. “It makes a huge difference. If it was just the energy costs we would need to consider raising our prices, but it is also the breweries putting up their prices as well.

“I think some pubs will go out of business.”

Another publican told the Dispatch that “the game was up” for his boozer and that he blamed the government, before putting the phone down.

Philip Ridley, from the Enfield and Barnet branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), told the Dispatch: “There is not much we can do locally about energy prices, but we can encourage the council to bring in its new pub protection policy [from the draft Local Plan, yet to be adopted]. The planning system hasn’t been protecting pubs sufficiently.

“Ultimately some pubs will shut down. But we would urge the council not to allow this temporary crisis to justify pubs being granted change-of-use into restaurants.”

Ponders End has been particularly hard hit, with four pubs shutting their doors over the last decade and now only one remaining – the last having submitted an application this year to convert into a restaurant. In Palmers Green, JD Wetherspoon announced on 28th September that The Alfred Herring was one of 32 of its pubs going up for sale.

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