It has been a difficult two years for the beer industry, and at the end of 2021, Leeds CAMRA ran a beer census in Leeds City Centre to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and trading restrictions on real ale selling bars in the area.
Groups of Leeds CAMRA members were tasked with surveying a handful of pubs each. The goal to understand how many real ale selling bars were still open, how many were still selling real ale and what types of real ales were available.
“The headline figure is that the number of real ale selling bars in Leeds City Centre has reduced, as has the number of real ales available” said Leeds CAMRA Chair, Mike Hampshire.
“Since we last did the census in 2018, 9 bars have closed, 7 are still open but have stopped selling real ale and we have had 6 new openings. Back in 2019 we had 184 real ales available, but in the most recent census that had reduced to 149.”
“On a positive note, it does point to the resilience of many bars to still be trading in light of various lockdowns and trading restrictions. However, it is worth remembering that all those businesses who have come out of the other side are now dealing with additional debt, high and increasing supplier costs and low staffing levels.”
“Consumers are also still uncertain about heading out and socialising and that is evidenced in the drop in real ale availability. Due to the short shelf life of real ale, it’s often the first thing that is sacrificed on the bar to help control costs and waste.”
“Our fear is that, although things are moving forward from pandemic restrictions, we still have a perfect storm of high debt and high operating costs that will inevitably see some beer businesses close. Not just bars, but breweries too.”
“However, despite that, it is good to see an increase in the number of Leeds City Centre bars supporting our local breweries. Last time, beers from 9 of our breweries were available on bars, however this time, 12 breweries were represented.”
The census results also showed that Leeds City Centre has a new number one real ale on the bars. Previously, Leeds Brewery’s Pale ale was the most widely available pint. Today, that accolade is now with Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, which at the time of the census was available in 10 city centre bars.
Notes to Editors
The beer census was completed in November 2021.
67 of the 68 city centre bars selling real ale had some on at the time of the survey. In 2018, the number had been 76, but had been reducing from a peak in 2016 of 80.
9 bars had gone since the last survey. These are Foley’s, George, Last Picture House, Queen’s Bar, Shenanigans, Slocken, Veritas, Victoria Family and Commercial, and 115 The Headrow. Only 1 had gone in 2018 (Stick or Twist, which has now re-opened after being rebuilt).
7 bars still exist but have stopped selling real ale. They are Botanist, Cosy Club, Dry Dock, Headrow House, O’Neills, Rebound, and Toast.
6 new real ale selling bars have appeared, which are Stick or Twist (rebuilt), Bankers Cat, Brownhill and Co, Brew York, Head of Steam (Park Row), and Hoist.
149 different ales (was 184) were available from 71 different breweries (was 93).
The percentage from Yorkshire breweries has gone up from 65% to 72%, and Leeds CAMRA area breweries representation was up from 9 to 12.
19 bars had 6 or more beers on (26 bars before) with the Duck and Drake still top with 12 (was 15). Whitelocks were in second place with 9.
Since the start of these surveys in 2014 Leeds Brewery’s Pale ale has stood out as being the most popular beer each time. However, it has now been overtaken by Timothy Taylors Landlord (in 10 bars). 5 beers took second place equally on 7 (Ilkley Brewery Mary Jane, Kirkstall Brewery Pale and Three Swords, Leeds Brewery Pale, and Sharps Doom Bar).