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Sorry to disappoint those who have been calling for a bit more sweetness and light on this blog, but the table below from The Publican showing quarterly on-trade beer sales since the beginning of 1997 (in ’000s of bulk barrels) gives precious little ground for optimism. Compared with the same quarter the year before, sales have not risen in a single quarter for thirteen years. So I doubt whether John Clarke is going to be able to take me up any day soon on my offer to buy him a skinful of beer if any future quarterly sales figures show annual growth.

In 1997, total sales were 25.6 million barrels, but for the year from July 2009 to June 2010 they were down to 14.8 million, a fall of 42.1%. The biggest single fall was 10.6% between April-June 2007 – the last quarter before the implementation of the smoking ban – and the same quarter in 2008. July 2007 to June 2008 was 8.3% below the preceding 12 months, and the most recent 12 months continue to show a 6.0% fall.

This is not doom-mongering: it is pointing out a hard truth that supporters of pubs need to face up to. While obviously there are some pubs here and there doing well, being honest, for the trade as a whole there is nothing to suggest that things are going to turn around in the foreseeable future.