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Image: Jamie Inglis / Time Out London

Londoners: is the £7 pint actually here to stay?

At the current rate, they reckon the price of a pint could be £10.50 by 2030

Chiara Wilkinson
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Chiara Wilkinson
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The moment has come. It’s a moment we thought we’d only experience in our worst nightmares. Londoners: the dreaded £7 pint has arrived. 

We’re not here to name and shame, but we’ve seen it – and we’re not just talking about pints in Zone 1. The seven-pounder is starting to pop up everywhere: in neighbourhood locals, old-man watering holes, music venues and rooftop bars. Thinking of buying a round for you and three mates? That’ll be £30, please. 

Understandably, people are not happy. ‘That’s more expensive than petrol,’ one Twitter user commented. ‘For perhaps the first time ever, I’m glad I’m not young anymore,’ another scoffed. 

So, why exactly is this happening?

Without mansplaining inflation to you, everything is more spenny these days. There are rising costs in the supply chain of beer, labour shortages, as well as higher costs of pub food, which is sometimes absorbed by higher pint prices. Apparently, even pies have been affected. Take a look at this central London pub advertising a pie and pint for ‘only’ £17.  

Thinking of buying a round for you and three mates? That’ll be £30, please. 

The pandemic has also played its part. According to the Metro, eight in ten UK pubs added at least 30 pence to the cost of a beer when they reopened after lockdown, to help with increased delivery costs and higher wage bills.

But the really big one is energy.

‘The hospitality sector had already seen a doubling, if not tripling, of energy costs even before the situation in Ukraine added the additional pressure,’ says Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association.

According to McClarkin, the price of barley has gone up by 30 percent, with Ukraine being one of the top five global producers. This is also bad news for brewers who source barley locally, the price of which will likely rise in line with the global market.

At the start of the year, industry experts hoped that there would be an extension to the hospitality VAT relief during the pandemic, to help with rising costs. Instead, VAT has jumped from 12.5 to 20 percent, meaning even more financial pressure. 

So, what needs to happen to sort this out? McClarkin says that we need to see more footfall in pubs themselves to help stabilise trading, creating a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. Our pubs need us to help them to fully bounce back from the pandemic, but £7 pints aren’t the greatest enticement.

‘Hopefully, we’ll get some warmer weather to bring people in and to help reduce energy consumption,’ says McClarkin. ‘If more people come through the door, it will help to alleviate some of the [cost] pressures on businesses.’

Naturally, higher pint prices have led some Londoners to rethink their drinking habits. ‘I’m being a little more conscious about where I’m going and what I’m ordering,’ says Sam Neve, a content manager. ‘Sometimes I’ll go for a cheaper pint rather than the ones I’d actually enjoy. I don’t mind spending the money in the nice local pub, but you [often] see chains taking them over and then pumping the price up.’

Eight in ten pubs added at least 30p to the cost of a beer when they reopened after lockdown

Although the seven-pounder is likely to become more widespread as inflated costs kick in, it’s already here in some London drinking dens. Some pubs have been advertising the price of schooners (typically two-thirds of a pint) rather than full pints; others have embraced the higher price. ‘It mostly seems to be a specific type of trendy pub where you’ll find the most expensive pints at the moment,’ says Deaglan McAloran, a teacher. ‘It seems ridiculous.’

Last month, data from the Office of National Statistics revealed that the average cost of a pint in the UK has increased by 23p in the past two years, the third biggest increase since records began in 1987. 

So is the £7 pint actually here to stay? Chances are, it will get even worse. If inflation remains at its current rate, the price of an average pint in London could go up to £10.50 by the end of the decade, according to modelling by analysts Admiral Markets.

While this is admittedly a lot of doom and gloom, we still don’t endorse going to Wetherspoon’s to try and avoid the horrendous pint prices, unless you really have to. If you can, continue to support your local throughout these tough times, or go in search of to the cheapest non-Wetherspoon’s pint in London (currently The Yacht in Greenwich, where it’s just £2.50 for a pint of cask bitter). 

Here are the 100 best pubs in London.

Check out London’s best beer gardens.

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