Are calls to freeze beer duty the answer or do pubs need to do more to help themselves stay in business?

Are calls to freeze beer duty the answer or do pubs need to do more to help themselves stay in business?

As part of the Budget discussion this week there was speculation about how it would affect the British pub trade.

One British MEP threw his support behind calls for the chancellor to freeze the duty on beer, which is also backed by a number of trade bodies. Brian Simpson, North West MEP and the European Parliament's chair of transport and tourism, is the latest to point out that industry cannot afford the rise. In a letter to the chancellor George Osborne, he said: "I hope you will take action to protect these jobs by scrapping the beer duty escalator. This will also help our much-loved pubs, the communities they serve and the important local facilities they provide."
With many pubs being forced to close all the time would a freeze on duty actually rescue the great British pub from becoming a thing of the past, or is it only part of the problem

Traditionally pubs were the domain solely of drinkers, but those that are surviving are diversifying into other markets. One of the obvious examples of this is food, and not just the type which helps to absorb the alcohol, but high quality offerings. By bringing more people in through innovative menus, alcohol sales increase as a by-product, but many pubs are struggling to make ends meet without such measures.

Recently the pub operator Brakspear held a day in which a number of its establishments did not charge tax on beer and its profits improved. This suggests that such a measure can help but more is needed in order to return the local pub to the community.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which is one of the bodies calling for a freeze on duty, runs Community Pubs Month each year in April in order to promote the issue. With around 16 pubs being closed every week in the UK, it is important that those running them do all they can to keep them going.

Some ingenious landlords have started targeting markets which aren't necessarily traditionally associated with visiting pubs. Since the smoking ban pubs are more accessible for all and by offering them as venues for knitting or book groups a wider audience can be served. This sort of approach does help to return the local pub to communities and ensure customers on evenings during the week when they may normally be quiet.

So would a freeze on beer duty save the day? Well it could help, but pubs need to help themselves too and cater towards the changing market.
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