The Government is being urged to make "substantial" reforms to help keep pubs open after new research suggested they play a big role in local communities.
More than half of regular real ale drinkers who go to pubs have made at least one new friend during their visits, a survey of more than 2,000 adults by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) indicated.
Almost one in three said they had made five or more friends, while Camera said its study also suggested that people who have a pub in their area are happier, more trusting and better-connected to their local community.
Donna Brayshaw, who owns The Sun pub in Lepton, Huddersfield, and has been a landlady for 25 years said pubs are a vital part of the community that cannot be allowed to fail.
“We’re a very busy pub - we’re the only pub in the village. If we closed, the community spirit would die altogether, which was basically where it had got to when we bought the pub nine years ago from a pub company. Having a local pub is more important than ever nowadays because the libraries have gone, the community centres have gone, the children’s activities too. It’s the only thing to bring the community together.”
Though The Sun is privately-owned, it is one of many pubs in Yorkshire known as a “community pub” because of the large range of services it provides outside of pulling pints. The pub raises lots of money for the local community, including sports teams and the local school. It also has a library - the village library closed a few years ago - and does events like a harvest festival.
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Though these services are important, equally important is the role the pub plays in stopping loneliness.
Mrs Brayshaw added: “Mental health is massive regarding pubs. People who come to pubs are known to have better mental health than people who don’t.
“Even if you’re not actually stood talking to people, just being around other people and not being isolated is really important.”
Camra called for the introduction of a preferential rate of duty for beer sold in pubs and on-trade outlets, greater support for publicans tied to large pub-owning companies and a significant reduction in the business rates currently paid by pubs.
Nik Antona, Camra's chairman, said: "Pubs play a significant role in communities across the country, providing a space for local people to meet, helping to tackle loneliness, and having a positive impact on the personal wellbeing of pub-goers.
"It's vital that the government continues to act to reduce pub closures so that pubs remain at the heart of communities."
Earlier this week, Britain's Beer Alliance launched a campaign called Long Live The Local, which aims to celebrate British pubs role in the community, and raise awareness of the jeopardy they face from tax pressures.
This came after research from Oxford Economic Data found that we could lose one in 10 pubs over the next five years. The campaign is attempting to secure signatures for a petition to the government to discuss cutting beer tax in the Autumn 2019 Budget.
Earlier this year, Camra research showed pubs are closing at a shocking rate, with one pub disappearing every 12 hours in the UK, with the number of small pubs having halved since 2001. While this rate is slowing there seems no sign that it will stop.
A Treasury spokesperson said: “We recognise the important role pubs play in our communities. That’s why we have cut or frozen beer duty at six of the last seven Budgets – which means a pint of beer is now 14p cheaper than it would have otherwise been.
“In the last decade, our decisions have saved drinkers £5bn and meant beer duty has fallen by 15% in real terms. This is on top of £1bn worth of business rates reliefs we announced last year to help pubs with their bills.”