Caterham pub battles rising costs

A Caterham on the Hill publican has described the pub trade as the ‘worst it’s been’ as he fights to keep his business going.

Danny Foley*, who took over as tenant of the Royal Oak in the High Street in June, is struggling with rising costs of business rates, energy prices, entertainment, and sports television.

In an effort to save money, he has reduced his trading hours and is encouraging customers to pay with cash to avoid card transaction and processing fees.

“This is the hardest I’ve known it, and I’ve been doing this for 27 years. There’s no help for us. Business rates and everything else are going up and up. Sky Sports TV costs £650 a month, TNT Sports costs £220, electric is going up.

The changing of the pub hours is to do with trade. I’ve tried opening from midday but nobody was coming through the door until three o’clock in the afternoon and, during the week, by nine o’clock it’s like a ghost town.”

Cllr Chris Langton, chair of the Strategy and Resources Committee for Tandridge District Council (TDC), said:

“While we collect business rates, we don’t set rate relief for businesses. This is set by the government.

We automatically apply the current retail rate relief of 75% for 2023-2024 to all eligible business rate accounts. This relief was set out in the budget announcement last autumn.”

Mr Foley has also found licensing hours and other guidelines are harming his business.

“All the other pubs are closing at midnight, but I have to close at 11pm. I am not being given any extension of hours and when there’s live music or karaoke on I have to fork out £160 for door staff.”

Recently published data from commercial real estate analysts Altus Group shows that 383 pubs in England and Wales closed permanently in the first six months of 2023, three short of the total number which shut in 2022.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: 

“The figures don’t just tell the story of the hard times pubs have faced the past few years but indicate what’s to come if the government fails to extend the business rates relief and implement wider business reform.

Since 2020 pubs have faced a myriad of challenges, from forced closures to an ongoing energy crisis and for many the looming increase in business rates early next year will be the last straw. 

Our pubs play a vital role in local socio-economic success all over the UK, but they aren’t able to do their best work because they are under threat from unfair taxation through business rates and VAT, looming duty rises and extreme energy bills.”

*After we had gone to print, Danny announced on Facebook that 29 September would be his last day as landlord of the Royal Oak, citing ‘no support from the pub company in the bar or on the accommodation and their failure to back me with proposed licensing conditions to be imposed by Surrey Police for no valid reason…so I gave notice..not worth the stress and aggravation.’

Share this article