London’s gin and whisky makers – once a boom industry feted by politicians – are facing a bleak future of falling demand, a cut in investment and questions over staffing levels.
A national survey of almost 100 distillers reveals an industry grappling with the fall-out from COVID, struggling with spiralling costs, and now coming to terms with the 10.1% increase in duty introduced on 1 August.
Some 14% of the respondents were from the capital.
The new analysis by Survation for the UK Spirits Alliance (UKSA) comes as an advertising van calling on the Chancellor to back UK spirits drove around Westminster on Tuesday.
Distillers have joined forces with bar-owners, under the banner of the UKSA, to warn the Chancellor that the double-digit duty increase is bad news for whisky and gin makers – but also damages hospitality and penalises drinkers who prefer a gin & tonic to a pint of lager.
They argue a further hike in duty would push businesses over the edge and represent the Government turning its back on growth.
Neema Rai, owner of Battersea Barge & Tamesis Dock, said, “The UK has a long history and tradition with spirits offering some of the finest gins and whiskeys in the world. It has seen an eruption of wonderful independent craft distillers emerge and I feel that it is critical to support that growth. We are also home to some of the best bars and mixologists in the world but the only way to develop, sustain and grow on this success is by remaining competitive and relevant.
“The Treasury risks killing off the renaissance in British spirits and sending pubs and bars back to the un-inspiring days of the 80s. Their approach must take in to account the huge leap of progress that the country has made across the board with its burst of independent craft breweries and distillers which has been one of its great success stories.
“While they have supported the beer industry, they must also support the spirit industry so that they can also have all the tools to survive and thrive. Drinkers are embracing this shift to lighter spirit-based drinks made with local ingredients in local distilleries with many of them embracing their environmental credentials.
“We sell a lot of great beers, but we have just as many customers who chose a gin and tonic, a spritz or another cocktail. They drinker fewer, higher-quality drinks – because they want that memorable experience.
“Spirits make up one third of all alcoholic drinks served in hospitality settings. Policies and tax must reflect and support modern day drinking, entrepreneurship, and growth.
“The increase in spirits duty and the Brexit Pub Guarantee does not reflect this. The Government risks penalising a big group of drinkers and undermining a British business success story. To support the current emergence and transformation of pubs and bars, the Government should support the spirits sector and get behind Britain’s world-famous hospitality industry. In the Autumn statement, alongside distillers, we urge the Chancellor to back a duty freeze on spirits.”