Suffolk: Fears that beer duty rise could be the end for pubs

A huge rise in beer duty will spell the end of pub drinking as more people go in search of cheap booze, a landlady warned today.

George Osborne is poised to impose an above-inflation tax hike on the pint when he delivers his budget later this month on top of January’s VAT rise.

Veronica Chambers, of PJ McGinty’s pub, in Northgate Street, Ipswich, said: “Everyone is struggling with increasing costs.

“The more prices go up, the more people will go elsewhere to find cheaper alcohol and, in turn, the more local pubs will close down.

“People should remember that the local pub is, and always was, the hub of a community. We will lose that hub if more people choose to drink at home. The idea of a Big Society should be promoting local pubs.

“We try to do right by our customers, but it’s difficult when costs are so high.”

Her anger comes as another Ipswich boozer prepares to serve its final pint today after its owners called time. Twelve have closed in the town in the last year.

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The latest pub to close its doors is the Rose and Crown, in Norwich Road, which will serve its last ever pint today.

Tenants since September 2009 Sam Kittle and Mark Gooch are saddened by the loss of Ipswich’s last gay pub, after being told last month that owner Admiral Taverns was selling up.

Adrian Smith, Barwatch branch chairman and Dove Street Inn landlord, said: “The government seems to have lost all sense of reality. This increase will affect a great deal of pubs. We have already seen a greater turnover in licenses than usual for the beginning of the year.”

Mr Smith’s pub absorbed the VAT increase on draught products, but he admits defraying any duty hike would be more difficult. He added: “Supermarkets should be stopped from selling drink as a loss-leader. We need to get people back into pubs in order to save jobs.”

- Read the full story in today’s Evening Star