Pub closures have soared to a record high – 36 a week – as drinkers choose to buy cut-price alcohol for consumption at home.
The British Beer and Pub Association said 936 pubs ceased trading in the first six months of 2008. Pubs are shutting nine times faster than in 2006 and 18 times faster than in 2005.
Publicans complain they have been hit by the smoking ban, rising rent and fuel bills, and aggressive discounting by supermarkets.
The BBPA fears closures will gather pace, with the imposition of above-inflation rises in beer duty. Almost 2,000 pubs are expected to close by the end of the year. "There will be many thousands of closures – probably 6,000 in the next three or four years," warned Mark Brumby, a City analyst with Blue Oar Securities.
The BBPA is asking publicans to ring their bells at 1pm on 14 September to protest at the planned tax rise. Pubs are being urged to concentrate on the "five fs" – food, families, females, forty-somethings and fifty-somethings.