Pub bosses warn soaring energy bills could trigger mass closures within months

If pub boss Anthony Pender hadn't locked in energy prices earlier this year, his electricity bill could have been more than half-a-million pounds. ITV News' Carl Dinnen reports.

Pub owners are reeling at energy bills they warn will force many to shut their doors or 'go back to candle-light'.

Pub chain Greene King bosses said one of its pub's energy bills has jumped to £33,000 a year.

While a landlady in Cheshire said she could be forced to turn off the heat and lights to get through the winter.

Yummy Pubs founder Anthony Pender told ITV New of narrowly avoiding catastrophe - locking in a fixed tariff earlier this year looks saved his pub group from an energy bill of more than half-a-million pounds.

His pubs would need to sell 300,000 pints a year just to pay for energy, before even getting started on rent and wages.

Running a pub was currently "not sustainable," Mr Pender told ITV News.

Pubs across the UK will be forced to close by autumn due to energy costs soaring upwards of 300%, industry bosses warned today.

Bosses of six of the UK’s biggest pub and brewing companies signed an open letter to the government urging it to act in order to avoid “real and serious irreversible” damage to the sector.

Businesses, unlike households, operate without a regulated energy price cap - which will surge for households by 80% in October - meaning their bills will be pushed even higher.

Gill Leigh-Ford, of Ye Olde Admiral Rodney, in Cheshire, told ITV News Granada times are 'tough'

Some pub owners are warning that their bills have quadrupled or are struggling to even find suppliers willing to power their venues when contracts come up for renewal.

Gill Leigh-Ford, of Ye Olde Admiral Rodney in Macclesfield, Cheshire, told ITV News Granada: "In the past we were paying around £500 - £600 pounds a month electricity, £150 - £200 gas.

"But last month's electric was £2,500 and the gas was £450 and that's without putting any gas fires on."

"It's tough, especially after the pandemic when we are just beginning to recover and now we've got this other hurdle to cross," added Gill.

"The only thing we can do is pass the price on to the customer - which we don't want to do because they are a loyal bunch and also they've got their own domestic increases too.

"Or we just have a cold pub which we don't want to do. We could go back to candle-light, it is a 1730 pub.

"I just want the government to cap the prices, at least put a levy on them, because we can't carry out like this, not knowing how much the increases are going to be."Nick Mackenzie, chief executive officer of 2700-strong group Greene King, said one tenant has seen their energy bill jump to £33,000 for the year.

Greene King, along with bosses from JW Lees, Carlsberg Marston’s, Admiral Taverns, Drake & Morgan and St Austell Brewery - who sit on the board of British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) - sounded the alarm on Tuesday.

Mr Mackenzie said: “While the government has introduced measures to help households cope with this spike in prices, businesses are having to face this alone, and it is only going to get worse come the autumn.

“Without immediate government intervention to support the sector, we could face the prospect of pubs being unable to pay their bills, jobs being lost and beloved locals across the country forced to close their doors, meaning all the good work done to keep pubs open during the pandemic could be wasted.”

The bosses have demanded the government implement an urgent support package that effectively caps the price of energy for businesses.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know... 

William Lees Jones, managing director of the JW Lees pub group, said: “We have publicans who are experiencing 300% plus increases in energy costs and some energy companies are refusing to even quote for supply.

“In some instances, tenants are giving us notice since their businesses do not stack up with energy at these costs.

“These are not just pubs but people’s homes and the hearts of the communities that they sit in.

“Government needs to extend the energy cap to business as well as households.”

One independent pub, in Bebington, Wirral, said its direct debit will soar to £6,000 a month - with an annual charge of nearly £62,000 per year.

The Rose and Crown pub said its standing charge will increase over 2.5 times from 15p a day in May to 40p a day, and said this was the cheapest deal available.

Sharing the price quote on Twitter, bosses warned "thousands of small businesses will disappear this winter" if urgent support isn't implemented.

It comes as knock-on effects from rising energy bills are also impacting the sector, with CF Fertilisers, one of the UK’s biggest CO2 producers, revealing it will halt production at its remaining UK ammonia site due to rocketing costs.

Brewers have warned that they could face disruption if there is a shortfall in supply of CO2, which is used in the production of some beer.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said the spiralling energy costs will cause more damage to the industry than the Covid pandemic did if "nothing is done in the next few weeks".

“There are pubs that weathered the storm of the past two years that now face closure because of rocketing energy bills for both them and their customers," she added.

A government spokesperson said: “No government can control the global factors pushing up the price of energy and other business costs, but we will continue to support the hospitality sector in navigating the months ahead.

“That includes providing a 50% business rates relief for businesses across the UK, freezing alcohol duty rates on beer, cider, wine and spirits and reducing employer national insurance.

“This is in addition to the billions in grants and loans offered throughout the pandemic.”