Cost of living: Edinburgh pubs forced to raise price of a pint and cut opening hours over soaring energy bills

Pub owners in Edinburgh hammered with soaring energy bills have said they will be forced to cut opening hours, put up the price of a pint and work for no pay as they fight to survive the winter.
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Some pubs are being hit with energy bill increases of 500 per cent, prompting stark warnings from experts that two thirds will be forced to close in the months ahead.

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) group has warned that the cost of a pint would have to rise to "ridiculous" amounts of £15 or £20 to match the increase in running costs pub landlords now face.

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Pub owners told the Evening News they are looking at how to cover their energy costs – but said that they are doing all they can to avoid hitting customers with significant increases.

Owners of the Roseleaf bar in Leith say they have been forced to make difficult decisions due to rising energy billsOwners of the Roseleaf bar in Leith say they have been forced to make difficult decisions due to rising energy bills
Owners of the Roseleaf bar in Leith say they have been forced to make difficult decisions due to rising energy bills

‘We will need to work for no pay – that’s the only way we’ll survive’

Jonny Kane, who runs the Roseleaf bar with his wife Lyn, said they are facing a bill of up to £500 a week – double what they currently pay. The couple said they will need to resort to having fewer staff and working more hours for no money.

“We were just bouncing back after covid and the bin strikes and now this,” he said, “My wife and I will need to do more shifts and just work for no pay. That’s the only way we will survive. I don’t know how long we will be able to go on like that.

"On its own the energy bill is worrying, but it’s kicking while we’re still repaying loans from the pandemic. For small businesses like ours that don’t have massive profits it’s not sustainable. We’d need to ask, is it worth it?”

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Mr Kane said they’d only look to put up prices on drinks if push came to shove. "Nobody will come to the pub for a £15 pint,” he said, “That’s just not viable, it’s extortionate. The way I see it, it’s all falling on us to try and lower our costs.

"If other places do hike up prices to, say, around £6 or more for a pint like we did with takeaways during lockdowns, then we’d have to seriously consider it too. It’s a hard pill to swallow.

"Going out for a casual pint would no longer be an option for most folk. That would be sad. I think increasing the prices significantly would be unfair.”

‘We’ve been hit by this triple whammy’

Mike Christopherson, owner of Pearce’s and Victoria on Leith Walk, said he’s also doing all he can to avoid passing on hikes to customers.

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But he fears the knock-on effect of rising bills in winter months bring another rise in covid numbers making the sector an ‘easy target’ for restrictions.

"It is nuts with the energy prices,” he said, “We’ve been hit by this triple whammy of increased staff wages due to shortage, inflation and now this. The government will have to put a price cap on for businesses.

“We’ve been cutting our usage for a while now with things like turning off lights and sourcing alternative products. We might need to put prices of drinks up but I’d be talking maybe 50p or £1.

"At the end of the day our customers have massive bills of their own and it wouldn’t be fair to hit them with huge prices. It’s a huge burden on us. We’ll need to look at savings in all areas, including opening times.”

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He said: “I hope we won’t see restrictions in the winter again but if the NHS is struggling the easy target will again be the hospitality sector.”

‘We will see a cemetery of closed pubs this winter’

A manager at Dirty Dick’s in Edinburgh said their bills have sky-rocketed by more than three times. The pub is the last surviving one of three venues run by the independent owners, after Rosehip closed following impact of Covid.

The manager, who wished to be anonymous, said: "We feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Alcohol is already expensive and our kitchen is getting less profitable as prices of everything go up.

"We have put up prices here and there by small amounts but feel we can’t put up prices much more. It’s just common sense, we’d lose customers.

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"We thought about getting rid of cask beer then we wouldn’t need to keep it chilled in the cellar. But we’ll do what we can to keep it. We will need to look at closing some days. I hope we can push through.”

"But if something is not done to cap the prices and lower VAT we will see a cemetery of closed pubs this winter. It’s hard to say if we’ll make it. Nobody is safe right now.”

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