UK licensed premises fall below 100,000

30 October, 2023

In the United Kingdom, the number of licensed establishments has fallen below 100,000 for the first time in 20 years.

New data from UKHospitality reveals that more than 44,000 establishments have vanished since 2003, which equates to just over six closures each day over the last two decades.

Industry leaders emphasise that these statistics highlight the significant transformations within the hospitality sector and the prolonged challenges it has faced, exacerbated in recent times by surging inflation, increasing energy costs and workforce difficulties.

UKHospitality is urging the government to provide immediate support in the upcoming autumn statement, including an extension of business rates relief and a freeze on the current multiplier.

The data indicates that by the end of September 2023, the total count of licensed venues in the UK had dropped to 99,916 – a decrease of 30.6% from the 2003 figure of 144,055. This marks the first time the number has fallen into five figures.

The most substantial losses were observed in wet-led pubs, bars and nightclubs, which experienced a net decline of 43.6% during this period. Over the past two decades, there has also been a rise in managed establishments, which outperformed their independent counterparts, with a growth of 14.6% compared to a decline of 32.9%.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, commented:

“Given the shocking number of hospitality business closures exposed by these new figures, the last thing the sector needs is the potential £1bn bill as a result of the business rates hike due in April.

Our industry has proved time and time again that, with the right conditions, it can drive national economic growth, invest in local communities and create jobs at all levels.

The autumn statement is an opportunity to extend the current business rates relief and freeze the current multiplier. In doing so, it can not only save more local and national businesses from closure but enable investment and growth.

We also continue to ask the chancellor to consider more medium to long-term measures to support the industry, such as reviewing the rate of VAT for hospitality and reforming the apprenticeship levy to give businesses more control and flexibility over funding.”

Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s business unit director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, added:

“These figures show the steady contraction of Britain’s licensed premises over a 20-year period and that has accelerated in recent years with the triple whammy of Brexit, covid and spiralling costs.

But while the closures have negatively impacted communities and livelihoods, some trends have been positive, like the dramatic increase in the quantity and quality of restaurants and the success stories of multi-site operators.

Demand for eating and drinking out is still strong and hospitality has a key role in connecting all our communities. The right government support is needed to ensure businesses can survive and help drive our economic recovery.”

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