THE Walnut Tree; The Kings Arms; The Butchers Arms; The Golden Grove; The Mitre Vaults; The Railway. Just a selection of evocatively-named pubs that have called last orders in and around Wrexham in the last few years.

Whether they've been replaced by kebab houses, student accommodation, Chinese takeaways or have simply been demolished, 40 pubs have disappeared across Wrexham since 2001 with Flintshire losing 45 during the same period.

Nationally the picture is even more grim for drinkers with more than 11,000 pubs closing in the UK in the last decade – a fall of almost a quarter (23%).

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data confirms the large fall in the number of pubs, from around 50,000 pubs in 2008 to around 39,000 pubs in 2018. The situation has been reflected across Wales, where 29 per cent of pubs and bars have closed in the last ten years. There are now 2,195 in the principality while across North Wales the number of pubs has gone down from 700 in 2001 to 560 today.

The Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) has called for reform to business rates and cuts in beer duty to help tackle the loss of pubs. It also wants a full review of the Pubs Code, which governs the relationship between firms who own 500 or more pubs and their tenants.

The organisation’s chief campaigns and communications officer, Tom Stainer, said: “These shocking new figures show the huge loss that has been felt by communities up and down the country as beloved locals have closed down.

“By focusing on the stability of turnover from pubs and bars since the recession this study fails to measure the loss of the benefits that local pubs bring to their communities.

“Pubs play a unique role in offering a social environment to enjoy a drink with friends, they help combat isolation and loneliness and help people feel connected to their community.

“With a quarter of pubs closing in the last decade, we need the Government to act now to save our pubs from extinction.”

Most pubs in the UK are small, independently owned businesses – and it is mainly these kinds of pub that have closed over the last decade. Meanwhile, small pub chains, which are often regional, family-owned businesses, have also switched their focus away from small pubs towards medium and large bars.

And at the same time, the large 'pubcos' (nationwide companies with 250 or more outlets) have almost completely abandoned small pubs, disposing of lots of them in the early 2000s, concentrating instead on their bigger bars.

For most landlords, it's the heavy handed business practices from the big pubcos which are the reason behind the majority of the closures in the last decade or so. Around a third of pubs in the UK are owned by pubcos – large property companies who lease pubs out to tenants to run as their own business. These pubs are contractually obliged to buy their beer only from the pubco; preventing pub licensees buying on the open market. This is known as the beer tie. The fundamental problem is that these large companies make huge excess profits through inflated product prices and excessive rent costs.

"I don't know the breakdown of tied pubs closed compared to untied pubs closed but I bet the majority of pubs closing are tied," said Gareth Jones, who runs the award-winning Alehouse in Mold. "The horror stories that I hear about the way that pub landlords are being treated by pubcos doesn't make me surprised that these pubs are really struggling to stay open.

"With one of the biggest issues being that they are over charging them for the products that they are selling. Another major factor is the supermarkets and low prices that they are able to charge for alcoholic drinks."

New legislation has given some tenants of brewery or company owned pubs the opportunity to go free of tie but many landlords still complain that a good lawyer is still essential if you want to take on one of the big boys.

Also of concern to many landlords are the increase costs involved in what are commonly seen as pub 'essentials' such as a Sky and BT Sport subscriptions which can cost around £1,000 per month.

"These are some sobering statistics," said a spokesperson for CAMRA's Vale of Clwyd branch. "Pubs are struggling against excessive business rates, beer duty and unfair prices charged by the pubcos. The good news is that micropubs, brewery tap rooms and community-owned locals are on the increase. There are also more micro-breweries than ever although the number of ‘true’ free-houses remains disappointing."

"Being untied means that we are able to serve the products that we want to serve and are able to cut out the middle man and deal direct with suppliers," explained Gareth, who bucked the national trend by opening his pub in 2016 after being inspired by the 'micropub' movement which encourages a return to small, simple alehouses specialising in beer made by microbreweries.

"I got into the pub game after reading about the surge of micropubs and I fell in love with the philosophy of them. Micropubs for me are much more cost effective than regular pubs and offer something different at the same time.

"It's mostly about the real ale and conversation, but we do serve a selection of wines and soft drinks. It's no secret that less people go out drinking than they used to so the fact that micropubs are generally small, means that you are not paying rent and rates for rooms or floor space that you are not using. Also as we promote conversation by not having TVs, jukeboxes or other forms of electrical entertainment, it keeps the cost down by not having the costs that go with them."

Last year Alehouse came third in Welsh CAMRA’s Pub of the Year contest, finishing behind The Druid Inn in Goginan, Ceredigion and the New Inn in Bwlch, Powys, but despite the accolades, Gareth admits the industry is still a very challenging environment.

"The challenge that we have is to keep on doing the things that we do well and hopefully we can keep getting the support that we currently get from the amazing people of Mold and surrounding areas," he added. "If we can keep providing a great product with great service at a fair price then we are in with a fighting chance."