Welwyn and Hatfield pub landlords and MPs have their say on trade struggles

PUBLISHED: 06:41 29 January 2019

Landlord, Adam Richardson, of The White Horse in Welwyn. Picture: supplied by Adam Richardson

Landlord, Adam Richardson, of The White Horse in Welwyn. Picture: supplied by Adam Richardson

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After a Hatfield publican begged customers to support his business, more landlords have spoken out about the challenges they are facing.

Oliver Dowden enjoying a pint. Picture: Supplied by Oliver DowdenOliver Dowden enjoying a pint. Picture: Supplied by Oliver Dowden

Eighteen pubs a week close and pressure is being put on the government to do more for the pub industry, according to CAMRA.

Pubs have recently lost £1,000 in business rate relief.

Adam Richardson, landlord of The White Horse in Welwyn, said: “The pub and restaurant industry is the only industry where you are taxed on success.

“Landlords doing well are penalised.

The White Horse in Welwyn.
Picture: Becky AlexanderThe White Horse in Welwyn. Picture: Becky Alexander

“There should be a fundamental overhaul in business rates to support local pubs.

“Supermarkets are not competition in my opinion.

“A supermarket cannot replicate the atmosphere of a good pub.”

Ben Gill, landlord of The Horse and Groom in Hatfield has a similar view.

He said: “It seems very unjust that pub business rates are based on their turnover and success.

“In the long run the customer is paying for it in the price of beer.”

Andy Parrish, landlord of The Eight Bells in Hatfield, said: “Business rates have gone up a lot.

“I pay £608 per month.

“St Albans has been hit really hard as they forgot to put their rates up so it’s gone sky-high now.

“I think the government should lower business rates and also put a minimum price on alcoholic drinks so that pubs don’t lose all their business to supermarkets.”

MP for Welwyn Hatfield Grant Shapps supports pubs and has set up campaigns to save pubs in the past.

Only this month he has voted on a piece of legislation to specifically lower business rate inflation from the existing inflation measure – known as the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which is typically quite a bit lower.

He said: “This represents a cut in the inflation-linked increase to Business Rates and will be very good news for pubs.

“Pubs face a lot of challenges, but they play an important role in our community by providing a focal point in our streets and neighbourhoods, whilst creating an enjoyable venue to catch up with friends and socialise together.

“In my view, the government must ensure that they are able to survive and thrive for the benefit of the community.”

Welwyn Hatfield Chamber of Commerce Chairman Nick Brown feels strongly that pubs are a vital part of the community and their loss would have a knock-on effect into other areas such as youth culture, mental ill health and crime.

He said: “Retail is really struggling generally.

“Pubs are important because they provide a meeting point for our community.

“To be more busy, landlords need to tap into what the community want and need, including appealing to young people. Pubs do need help and they should continue to receive the £1,000 tax relief.

“From a fiscal budget perspective, it is short-sighted to save £1,000 and drive people away from safe places like a pub.”

Mr Brown explained that he believes a pub is a safer place for people to spend their free time than a nightclub or a park and talked about the importance of conversation and socialisation.

Mr Brown used to run pubs himself and says that he knows that pubs encourage law abiding behaviour as they are overseen and more visible than a park, for example.

MP for Hertsmere Oliver Dowden also believes in the public house as a community hub.

He said: “I’m a big real ale fan and one of the great pleasures of living in our area is range of pubs we’re able to enjoy.

“I know the pressure landlords are under that’s why I’ve consistent lobbied for fair treatment for our pubs.

“I’m pleased the government have consistently frozen beer duty and announced a range of measures to help with business rates.

“However, I continue to make the case for more work to be done to level the playing field, particularly with online retailers, who face much lower business rates.”

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