Sadiq Khan Wants to Stop London’s Pubs from Closing

The Mayor of London says he will “redouble efforts to stem the rate of pub closures” after a new figures reveal that the capital has lost 1,200 pubs in the last 15 years.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
April 20, 2017, 12:49pm
Photo via Flickr user Davide D'Amico

London, perhaps more than any other major city, has had much of its history shaped in drinking establishments. Sure, New York has atmospheric dive bars and Paris its smoky cafes filled with posturing poets, but far more shit has gone down in London pubs. From Charles Dickens taking inspiration from characters at the city's public houses and the Great Train Robbery gang planning their heist in a darkened corner of The Star Tavern to Lenin supposedly sipping pints in a Clerkenwell tavern and the Kray twins terrorising Bethnal Green boozers, the capital's pubs have been the backdrop to seminal events throughout the ages. And most of your adult birthdays.

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But London landlords, like those across the rest of the country, are struggling with increased rents and business overheads, stricter licensing laws, and changes to social drinking habits that make it increasingly difficult to run a profitable pub. As we drink more in the home and down flat whites in newly opened coffee shops, pubs are closing every week.

New figures from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) reveal just how many London pubs have been lost in recent years. Released yesterday, the stats show that the number of London pubs has fallen by a quarter since 2001, from 4,835 to just 3,615 last year. Overall, London has lost 1,200 pubs in the last 15 years—that's an average of 81 closures a year.

Some areas of the capital were worse affected than others. Fifty-six percent of pubs in Barking and Dagenham have closed since 2001 and Newham has also lost more than half of its locals. Hackney was the only borough to report an increase in pub openings. The figures are so worrying that London Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to partner with CAMRA and carry out an annual pub audit. He hopes that noting the number of pub openings and closures in the capital will help prevent further losses.

According to Khan, keeping boozers going is vital if London is to remain a cultural destination. He explained in a statement: "The Great British pub is at the heart the capital's culture. From traditional workingmen's clubs to cutting-edge micro-breweries, London's locals are as diverse and eclectic as the people who frequent them. That's why I'm shocked at the rate of closure highlighted by these statistics, and why we have partnered with CAMRA to ensure we can track the number of pubs open in the capital and redouble our efforts to stem the rate of closures."

It's not the first time Khan has shown support for London's drinking establishments. Before his election last year, he lamented to Dazed Digital that "too many bars and clubs have been forced to close because they can't afford to soundproof their premises once new residential developments have been built nearby." When elected, he appointed the capital's first "night tzar," former cabaret club host Amy Lamé, to grow London's nightlife and turn the capital into "a 24-hour city."

As The Morning Advertiser reports, Lamé has also voiced her concern regarding CAMRA's new findings, saying: "Every pub closed in London is a blow to a local community and these statistics show that London's locals are under real threat from a wide range of issues from development to rising business rates."

She has also organised a public consultation in response to CAMRA's figures, aiming to provide guidance for boroughs that want to protect their locals from closure. Time will tell whether this measure, along with Khan's pub audit, can extend last orders for London's boozers.