If there was an endangered species act for national icons, the British pub (or public house) might be on it.
According to the British Beer and Pub Association, since 1982 the number of pubs across the United Kingdom has declined from 68,000 to fewer than 50,000 in 2012, and about 25-30 pubs close every week.
What has brought the venerable British pub low?
The reasons are varied and include sky high real estate prices, which make it more profitable to sell a valuable pub property than continue its operation.
The corporate wheeling and dealing of “pubcos” (corporate pub companies) have also contributed hugely to the diminishing number of pubs. First, pubcos have sold many pubs to pay off corporate debt. Second, they impose restrictive agreements on licensees who manage their pubs which narrow both the range of beers the latter can sell and the profits they can enjoy.
A third problem is that supermarkets can now significantly undercut the price of pub beer.
The good news is that public awareness has been raised by the looming crisis of the disappearing pub and efforts are under way to arrest it. And craft breweries in the UK are booming.
So fear not. Buying good ale in most towns or cities in Britain (and a decent cider too for that matter) remains almost as easy as it is in, well, the thriving Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, home to many craft beer lovers, several fine craft breweries, and, not coincidentally, to some of the contributors to this blog.