Beer sales in pubs down due to no-smoking law

The trend of people drinking more at home picked up speed this year

Beers sales in pubs and restaurants are in a slump. Due to the new anti-smoking law and other regulations, pubs and restaurants are expected to sell 4.2 percent less beer than last year. This may be the biggest drop in the last 14 years. But sales if bottles and cans in stores have made up the difference, and the overall consumption has remained fairly steady.

The figures for sales in hospitality establishments from the Czech Association of Breweries and Malt-Houses (ČSPS) for January to August will probably be even worse at the end of the year, daily Lidové noviny (LN) reported.

Most outdoor beer gardens will close in the winter, and since the new anti-smoking regulations forbid people from smoking indoors that will leave patrons with no place to smoke except the cold sidewalk.

Other factors that have affected beer sales in pubs and restaurants include a new law on electronic evidence of sales (EET) and the closing of many 24-hour gambling bars due to restrictions on slot machines. Many rural pubs closed when the EET law took effect, as it was too costly to install the equipment to instantly register sales with the financial office.

“From a nation with a traditional pub beer culture, we are starting to become the land of canned beer, which grew in popularity by almost 46 percent year-on-year,” ČSPS said.

While pubs and restaurants saw a 4 percent drop, sales of cans and bottles in stores and other outlets rose by about the same amount.

ČSPS president František Šámal told LN he does want to see a situation where Czechs will celebrate the centenary of the founding of Czechoslovakia in 2018 with a plastic bottle or an aluminum can of beer in the living room instead of meeting friends in a pub or restaurant.

ČSPS executive director Martina Ferencová told LN some regulatory measures affecting the hospitality sector and their customers make sense, but the problem is that they all came at almost the same time.

She acknowledged the importance of the social problems the regulations were meant to address but also said that over-regulation has negative effects on the market.

Last year, a total of 16.4 million hectoliters of beer were sold in the Czech Republic, a slight increase over the previous year. The share of sales in pubs and restaurants has declined steadily since 2003, with an average of 1 to 2 percent annually, according to ČSPS figures.

2009 was the first year that more beer was sold through stores than tapped in pubs and restaurants. In 2016, some 16.4 million hectoliters of beer were sold in the Czech Republic, with 39 percent sold in hospitality establishments. That accounts for 6.4 million hectoliters, which is equal to 1.28 billion pints of beer. The remaining 61 percent was sold in cans or bottles in stores.

On an international basis, the Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption per capita and has held that position for 23 years, as long as the independent Czech Republic has existed. Research by Japanese beer firm Kirin again confirmed the Czech leadership. They used 2015 figures, with Czechs drinking 142.4 liters each per year. Tourism helps to contribute to the numbers.

Seychelles was second with a paltry 114.6 liters. Austria (104.7), Germany (104.7), Namibia (102.7), Poland (99.0), Ireland (97.5), Lithuania (97.1), Belize (94.7) and Romania (92.1) made up the top 10.

Europe and the former Soviet states lead the world in overall alcohol consumption, based on the amount of pure alcohol in spirits, wine, beer and other beverages. World Health Organization statistics, reported by Radio Free Europe, show that Lithuania comes out on top at 18.2 liters of alcohol per person every year. Belarus, Russia, and Moldova also come ahead of the Czech Republic, which ties with Romania at 13.7 liters per person. South Korea is the highest scoring non-European country at 11.9 liters.

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