Pandemic sees UK gain record number of new distilleries

August Graham, PA City Reporter

The number of distilleries in the UK grew by more than 100 last year for the first time ever despite the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic on large parts of the hospitality industry.

Data from HM Revenue and Customs shows that the number of distilleries in the UK has doubled in the last four years, as spirits boom in popularity.

Just last year the number of net new distilleries – openings minus closures – hit 124, up 28% on 2019.

The data was shared by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which obtained it through a freedom of information request.

The organisation said there were more than 560 distilleries registered in the UK last year, up from more than 440 in 2019.

The highest number, 311, are found in England.

In 2016, England overtook Scotland, which has a major whisky industry, due to a boom in demand for gin across the UK.

“It’s heartwarming to find a positive story from the gloom of 2020 – and our bold and growing band of distillers have delivered once again,” said WSTA chief executive Miles Beale.

“The record number of new distilleries opening across the UK is great news and helps provide jobs and a real boost to local economies.”

But the sector still needs help from the Government through the crisis, Mr Beale said.

He called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help the sector continue to boom by cutting duty and extending the cut in VAT for hospitality firms to include alcoholic drinks.

The association also wants the VAT reduction across hospitality venues to be extended until March 2022 at the least.

Mr Beale added: “With such a difficult 2020 behind us and a daunting challenge to recover in 2021, our distillers need the support of the Chancellor at the upcoming Budget.

“A freeze at the last Budget certainly helped distillers to invest and grow, but we need the Chancellor to go further this time, with both a duty cut and an extension of the VAT reduction in hospitality venues, until at least March 2022 – and including alcoholic drinks.

“Distillers across the UK will play a vital role in 2021 and beyond as hospitality begins to open up again, and by showing his support for distillers at the Budget, the Chancellor can also promote the hospitality industry as it rebounds from Covid-19 restrictions.”

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