‘Prices will go up’ - owner of The Bridewell urges Government action to help save pubs

‘It’s a really tricky balance to keep our staff in a job and make it affordable for customers still to come in.’

The Bridewell has a long history. The building, once a prison, dates from the mid-19th Century and has been lovingly converted into a pub, with the cells now used as seating areas.

Charles Dickens was sworn in as a special constable for one night only in 1860 whilst researching one of his novels.

But the historic Liverpool landmark now faces an uncertain future with energy costs spiralling out of control across the UK and the price of essential supplies and equipment on the rise, amid a nationwide cost of living crisis.

The Bridewell pub, Liverpool

The chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), Tom Stainer, has claimed that the price of a pint would soon have to be £20, to cover the skyrocketing increase in costs pubs are facing.

Although pubs could never realistically charge that amount, prices are set to rise and without help from the Government more pubs are set to close.

Beer prices are going up

Fiona Hornsby, owner at The Bridewell, told LiverpoolWorld: "We know all our beer prices are going up at cost by 6%. We know our electricity and gas bills have doubled. We know that the cost of CO2 - which we need to serve the beer - that's doubling in price.

Fiona Hornsby, owner of Bridewell in Liverpool city centre.

“But, ultimately, we can't possibly charge £7 or £8 for a pint of lager or a pint of bitter because people are just not going to have the money to spend.

“So, we have to absorb some of these costs because if we don't, we won't have any customers, and if we don't have any customers, we will lose our business, and consequently, everyone who works here will lose their jobs. That's not what we want.

“So, it's going to be a really tricky balance to get everything right so that the business stays afloat and we keep our staff in a job and make it affordable for customers still to come in."

Could prices hit £20 a pint?

Ms Hornsby certainly does not think so and even CAMRA chief did caveat his statement by saying pubs couldn’t realistically pass on all the costs to customers.

"It's not going to happen,” she said. “There will always be some very niche products that may go up to that sort of price, but they would already be £10 or £12.

“We're not going to put them up that much. We may have to absorb some of the costs getting passed onto us, and we will have to put the prices up a little bit."

The Bridewell, Liverpool

Goverment urged to act now

UK Hospitality has urged new prime minister Liz Truss to act "quickly and decisively" in order to save the sector in the face of increasing costs due to the energy crisis.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, said: "The new Government must act quickly and decisively to address the soaring energy bills that are facing consumers and businesses."

She added: "With the right package of support – including a reduction in the headline rate of VAT for the sector to 12.5%, a business rates holiday, the deferral of all environmental levies, the reinstatement of an HMRC Time to Pay scheme and the reintroduction of a trade credit insurance scheme for energy – the sector will be well placed to aid growth through generating jobs and local investment.”

Pre-pandemic, hospitality in the UK employed more than three million people; however, with the industry now facing bills rising 300% on average, they say they desperately need a package of support put in place.

Ms Hornsby added: “An energy cap for business would be great. Also, a VAT reduction, but, unlike in the pandemic when it only applied to food in hospitality, it needs to apply to alcohol and go right across the board to everything.

“That would at least relieve some pressure. If we got a really healthy VAT cut, then that would help us to not put our prices up.”