Pub landlords are getting younger, new research shows

The number aged between 25 and 34 has risen by a quarter over the last three years, handing the struggling industry a much needed boost

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The Independent Online

Bar work has traditionally been the preserve of the penniless student. But young people across the country are trading pulling pints for buying pubs outright, according to new research.

The number of British pub landlords aged between 25 and 34 has risen by a quarter over the last three years, handing the struggling industry a much needed boost, the data published by Barclays shows.

The bank’s analysis of 8,000 business customers in the Pubs and Bars sector found that people in that age group are now in charge of around 15 per cent of the country’s pubs. Almost half (42 per cent) of current establishments have opened within the last three years as young people shake up the market, it said.

The turnover of the average pub has increased by almost a quarter (23 per cent) since 2012, which Barclays said pointed to “encouraging signs of growth for the UK pub industry”.

More than one in five pubs are now solely owned by a female landlady and almost a third of landlords under the age of 35 are women.

Adam Rowse, head of business banking at Barclays, said: “It’s been long reported that this is an industry full of challenges for pub owners, however our research shows that this has not deterred the next generation of ‘pub innovators’ from setting up shop. It’s great to see optimism for growth within this sector.”

According to Neil Walker of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), the increase in the number of young landlords may have stemmed from the growing popularity of craft beer made by small, independent breweries targeting younger drinkers.

“Like any industry, the pub sector needs young blood to help it thrive in the future,” he said. “Increasingly we’re seeing young people showing an interest in real ale and craft beer, which has already led to a boom in growth for microbreweries in the UK, and as such we should view this increase in the number of young licensees as a positive sign for the future of pubs.”

At the age of 30, Matt Hiscox became the sole owner of the decaying Carpenters Arms in the Monmouthshire village of Coed-y-paen. Seven years down the line, he has turned it into a popular local pub by providing good food and creating an upstairs function room for parties and weddings.

“It was incredibly run down. The place was vile, with holes in the seats and mould on the bar,” he said. “I remortgaged my house and put all that money into the pub. It takes over your life, but you get an immense sense of pride in doing it, and that drives you to work harder than you’d ever be able to do if you were doing it for someone else. I think as you get older, you get more cautious, whereas when you’re younger you’re much more inclined to just go for it.”

According to figures from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), 44 per cent of people employed in the sector are under the age of 25 and more than half are women. Last year, beer sales rose for the first time in a decade, which it put down to the previous Government’s scrapping of the beer duty escalator.

A BBPA spokesman said the Barclays figures showed “what a diverse industry brewing and pubs is today”. He added: “The great benefit of running a pub can often be that you are running your own business at a relatively young age. It is great to see that young people are attracted to the hospitality and leisure industry and see the career opportunities we offer and the opportunity to shape your own business.”

Case study

Peter Tiley, 31, quit his job as a business analyst in London two years ago to become the landlord of The Salutation Inn in the village of Ham, Gloucestershire. Earlier this year it won CAMRA’s national pub of the year award

“I always wanted to get into the beer sector – it was something that I’m passionate about and still am. I had a job in telecoms which had a good salary, but I just didn’t really care about phones and broadband connections. You spend so much of your life working, I figured that you’ve got to do something which you care about and enjoy.

I grew up in Gloucestershire and am a country boy at heart. My wife and I both felt we weren’t going to be in London forever, and it just happened that The Sally came up for sale. It was a huge gamble financially – I spent all of my savings and some of my wife’s on it.

There’s a great romance about running a pub, it’s like a young man’s dream. But the romance neglects all the hard work you have to do – you’re never off duty, constantly working.

If there are more young people getting into pubs, I think that’s wonderful. When I came to the village there were a few grumbling old men who seemed to think the pub should be run by a middle-aged couple. People would say: ‘Are you the landlord? Are you even old enough to serve beer?’

“But to run a pub you need a lot of energy, and young people bring a fresh perspective to an industry which is frankly tired, exhausted and on the verge of collapse. To have fresh blood, fresh ideas and young legs is brilliant, I think.”