The iconic image of pubs as a part of England that will always endure is in trouble.
The number of pub closings last year hit a rate 14 times higher than the prior year, according to a new report just released by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).
The BBPA says 1,409 pubs closed in 2007, a rate of 27 per week.
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has published its own survey showing a slightly slower pace -- 57 a month -- but notes that 31% of those closed are being demolished, 36% are converted to shops, cafes and restaurants and 33% are converted to some other use, mostly residential.
It is this changeover that is concerning people who want to preserve the country's pub structure. CAMRA is pushing for changes to planning laws to prevent pub demolitions and change of use without planning permission.
So, what is causing the phenomenon?
BBPA Chief Executive Rob Hayward said he blames rising costs, falling sales and the impact of the smoking ban.
“These figures show the reality of the pub trade today," he said, "in contrast to the hype surrounding the myth of '24 hour drinking'."
BBPA statistics say beer sales in pubs are at their lowest level since the Depression in the 1930s. Today's pubs are selling 14 million fewer pints a day than they did when sales were at their peak in 1979.
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