PUB landlords are calling on the government to throw them a lifeline and ease up on beer taxes.
Publicans have sent out their plea for restraint ahead of tomorrow’s budget, which is being announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
They want the chancellor to consider scrapping the beer duty escalator, which puts up the price of a pint two per cent above inflation every year.
Pubs also want a new tax brought in for supermarkets that would crackdown on the sale of cheap booze and binge drinking.
Duty on beer and wine has soared by 42 per cent since the duty escalator was brought in by the previous Labour government in 2008.
On top of duty, pubs have to pay VAT at the rate of 20 per cent when they buy their beer.
Greg Clark, bar manager at The Golden Lion, in Southwick, said: ‘The government could introduce a new off-sales tax and help by not putting an onerous tax on the pub.
‘It’s where people come to enjoy themselves.
‘Let’s hope we haven’t gone too far and lost too many pubs because of the policies of the last five years.
‘The escalator has affected the trade incredibly.’
Stuart Ainsworth, 42, who is the landlord of The Leopold Tavern, in Southsea, wants to see an end to the duty escalator.
‘The hope is the government will get rid of it,’ he said.
‘The fear and more the reality is it probably won’t.
‘If people drink less then we can’t invest in our business and our staff.
‘The government is then therefore losing money by having the escalator. We end up paying less tax on beer if people drink less.
‘Though we won’t be able to put prices down any further if the escalator is scrapped, more people will come out to drink.’
Mr Ainsworth doesn’t think plans for a minimum alcohol price would be fair on the majority of people who are responsible drinkers.
‘The government wants to target those who walk down the street with cans of super-strength lager,’ he said.
‘But in reality it’s going to affect sensible people who would want to buy spirits for a barbecue in the summer.
‘They would have to potentially pay three to four pounds more.’
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) is concerned beer duty will continue to rise and the costs will be forced onto customers.
Jonathan Mail, head of public affairs at Camra, said: ‘The chancellor is poised to impose yet more misery on pub goers in Wednesday’s Budget with a pre-planned 5 per cent hike in duty, adding around to the price of a pint in most pubs.
‘The sad irony is that continued above inflation hikes in beer duty are causing a fall in tax revenue as pubs are being forced into closure as customers turn to supermarkets for cheap alcohol.
‘Pub goers will react with disappointment and anger if the Chancellor forces up the cost of beer in pubs even further.
‘We hope he sees sense and scraps the beer duty escalator to support our local pubs.’