Britain's pubs struggle as tastes and rates change

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HERTFORDSHIRE (REUTERS) - Ye Old Fighting Cocks is dated around 795.

Before Mr Christo Tofalli bought it six years ago, the pub was shut and lay dormant for nine months.

"It may be the oldest pub in Britain, but that it seems doesn't mean anything when it comes time to paying business rates," said Reuters reporter Katie Gregory. "The bill is up 47 per cent since last year, and that means the owners have to come up with around 20 thousand dollars extra."

"We will probably survive it purely because of the investment and the five or six years of pure hard work that we've put in here," said Mr Tofalli. "That was luck."

A rise in business rates is one of several key issues facing the pub industry...and it's one of the main reasons for pub closures in the UK.

"In London they have gone up by 10 per cent which is huge, and we've seen hundreds of thousands of pounds go in rates," said British Beer and Pub Association Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds.

Pubs are also competing with supermarkets - which can sell alcohol at cheaper prices - thanks to lower overheads.

"Supermarkets can sell their drinks very cheaply they don't pay any VAT on their food as opposed to pubs and they discount drink and we would argue that of course it's cheaper to drink at home," said Wetherspoons spokesman Eddie Gershon.

The other issue... beer duties.

The tax imposed on beer manufacturers which then pass it on to retailers. That's led to the price of a pint of beer rising 75 per cent since 2000.

Mr Gershon added, "There is a natural squeeze and we feel the government in terms of business rates in terms of VAT and tax equality could do something."

The pub industry also plays a wider role in keeping the UK afloat.

7 out of 10 tourists are said to visit a pub while they're visiting the UK - even Chinese President Xi Jinping was treated to a pub experience in 2015 with then prime minister David Cameron.

So there's a fear that if more pubs close, that tradition and the community support pubs offer will be lost.

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