Main menu


Livelihoods on the brink: The cost of living is killing local businesses

featured image

Pub owner Graham Proud likes to take care of the locals.

During the pandemic, he made loaves of bread and handed them out socially distanced so that the welfare of his customers could be monitored.

If the local seniors aren’t at the bar for a day or so, check in. After the closure of his three nearby pubs in just seven months, he has a group of loyal and devoted patrons who count on him.

In short, Graham’s pub, The Seven Stars in Rugby, is a vibrant hub of the community. But now, due to a cost of living crisis, Graham and his wife Lisa are homeless and facing closure.

“To say I’m struggling is an understatement,” he told “We had Covid and now it’s utility bills. For the better part of 18 months we haven’t made a profit at all.

It’s a desperate time for the pub that Graham has run for six years. He has taken every possible step to continue, including selling his family’s house in 2020 to pay his bills.He now lives above the pub. is. He also took out business loans, let go of the chef and closed the kitchen to make ends meet, and relied on kind locals working for free behind the bar.

“When the pub closes, the house goes away,” says Graham (Photo: Courtesy)

“We now live on house money,” he explains. But I am 60 years old. My entire work life ends up being a bit flat with no money benefits. That’s a big worry. With rising utility bills looming, we’re looking down the barrel.

“No matter what, we still have loans to pay off. We come out without a penny. We’ve built this business out of big losses and turned it into an award-winning pub. I live in fear of January and it will be crunch time.

The stress has taken a toll on Graham, saying, “I’ve been in counseling every week since being released from lockdown. It’s all worrying. I can’t sleep through the night. I’m drinking more – Most days.Going from drinking 3.8% beer to not reaching for a 14% glass of wine.It’s a coping mechanism.I used to go out every Monday on holiday, but I can afford it. is gone and I no longer go out.

“If the pub closes, we will have no home. No assets. Nothing. I will come out without beans and have no place to live. I really don’t think I will end my career worrying like this.” No, as to whether a roof can be built over the head.”

Graham and his wife standing outside the pub

“We’re looking down the barrel as utility bills are looming,” says Graham (Photo: Courtesy)

Graham joins thousands of small business owners across the country who are dreading how they will pay their bills as the season gets colder.

Earlier this month, James Allcock, who runs a small but popular bistro in Beverly, opened an email from his energy provider.

We estimate his next annual bill will be over £22,500. He now spends £2,928 a year on 22 small restaurants. A staggering 670% increase.

James tweeted, “I don’t know what to do next but as a business the cost is going to be more than rent and more than it takes a few months. I simply don’t have the money for this. .

This is happening to business owners up and down in the UK. A recently announced mini-budget declared cuts in income tax and national insurance to help small businesses, but with winter approaching, the situation still looks grim.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses, 96% of business owners are concerned about a shocking 439% increase in electricity bills and 424% increase in gas bills on average.

With over 5.7 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, they are facing a perfect storm of rising rents, bills and costs on the back of declining consumer spending.

A grassroots music venue that chose to remain anonymous has announced that it will have to close due to a 1340% increase in energy costs, from £10,000 to £144,000 per year.

The Music Venue Trust’s Facebook post states: , pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and shops will simply close as the business energy market collapses. The economic repercussions of inaction on business energy costs would be too severe for the country.

The next few weeks will be critical for Ian Thursfield’s zero-waste business, Leeds Refills. The store, which sells dry goods, cleaning products and bath products, has been struggling all year, and he says the next few days will be the store’s “final throw of the dice.”

Ian with a baby in front of a refillable food jar

Ian says he’s ‘80% sure’ his business must close due to cost of living crisis (Photo: Courtesy)

The father of three started the shop 18 months ago to reduce the waste associated with raising children.

“It was going really well until last November,” he told “Then in January, we had the energy crisis, the water crisis, the gasoline crisis, the cost of living crisis, and it went downhill from there.

“Every month it gets worse and worse. My breakeven point is just £4,000 a month. In December I made £4,200. In January I was around £3,005.

Since then, he has lost £1,000 each month, with the exception of May, when he made a profit of just £15.

Ian, 34, adds: At this point, I’m about 80% sure it will be closed. Can’t get customers.

Ian is living on a fixed rate until next year, so he hasn’t been plagued with utility bills yet, and the rent is affordable, but consumers are reluctant to spend right now, he said.

“With various crises going on, people are tightening their purse strings,” he explains. “People are quick to think about what luxuries they can afford to give up, and there is a preconceived notion that refill stores are too expensive. Yes, some are expensive. Much cheaper than supermarkets for herbs, spices, lentils, noodles and nuts Sustainability is often seen as a luxury, but we have many offers. It’s very disappointing.

Ian has brought in promotions and gift cards, to little effect, but since his mission is to reduce waste, they are often seen as an effective way to increase business interest. I have refused to run a leaflet campaign.

Exterior of Ian's shop.Painted green with 'open' sandwich boards on the outside pavement

Ian says his shop “can only get 9-10 customers a day, some of them spending as little as 60p an hour.” (Photo: Courtesy)

The family lives on Ian’s wife, Oren’s wages (she works full time) and savings.

“It’s really sad. The business can’t survive this,” Ian sighs. “This store is part of my soul. It’s my fourth child. But I know he can only get nine to 10 customers in a day, and some of them are in his shop an hour.” Some use only 60 pence.

“I can’t stay up all night worrying because I can’t afford to be absent for the kids. If the shops were to close, I would be a stay-at-home mom, working odd jobs here and there while working in the gig economy. I have to work.”

Accounting Partnerships, an online accounting business for small businesses, was urging small businesses not to make decisions until its recently announced fall budget.

“The scale of the problem facing entrepreneurs today is comparable to the challenges of the pandemic,” explains Lee Murphy, managing director of The Accountancy Partnership. “Government support will be very welcome to the thousands of small businesses facing a significant rise in overhead costs this winter. It may help secure the immediate future for those facing the very real prospect of having to close the door on

Lee Murphy of The Accountancy Partnership

“Small businesses are at the heart of our economy and our communities,” explains Lee Murphy of The Accountancy Partnership (Photo: Courtesy)

“However, while the six-month cap is highly praised, small businesses may need additional support to plan ahead so they don’t face a cliffhanger when it ends next year. ”

In light of recent announcements, Lee is now calling for a temporary 5% reduction in VAT, a review of tax rules for the self-employed, and an increase in corporate taxes.

“Small businesses are central to our economy and our communities,” he adds. “As a country, we cannot allow ourselves to face these problems without additional help and support.”

At Sophia Sutton-Jones’ bakery, bills have skyrocketed from about £1,500 to £5,500 a month.

Sophia in the kitchen holding a loaf of sourdough

“Our customers are in much the same position as they are facing a cost-of-living crisis, so adding 300% to their bread doesn’t seem right,” says Sophia (Photo: Will war)

“We refuse to pay the absurd increase of over 300% we were given,” says Sofia, 30. Let’s head off to find ‘market conditions’ or a new provider.

If she were to pass the cost on to her customers, she would have to charge £10 for basic sourdough bread, which is more than double the current price.

She adds: Already this year she has had two price increases and her bill is up to £5,500 a month, so paying full price is not sustainable. ”

‘Even with the suggested support [from the Government this week]our prices drop to around £3,200 per month, which is still an increase of 210%.

Sophia’s business is a real person with local success. She started lockdown and made sourdough bread from her home in Crouch End and took her area by storm. Sourdough Sophia the community loves.

Outside Sophie's Bakery - bright pink paint with the words

Astronomical energy costs put Sophia’s business in the red (Photo: Emily R Marshall)

“From day one, people were queuing for bread,” she explains. “We know most people who come through the door. We know their names, we know their orders. It’s a much loved business.”

By 2021, Sophia was 20% profitable. That’s a big number for any startup.

So she just stopped paying the bill in full. “We will pay as much as we can, but we will not pay more,” she says.

“We will not close. As the profits and revenues for those involved are greatly reduced, the pressure to act anyway increases as the pressure increases.

“There have been movements such as the Don’t Pay UK movement, but I’m not in it because I’m paying a realistic amount, but it’s not what they want.”

Sophia, who is heavily pregnant, admits that her business would be “ruined” if its power was cut off as a result of non-payment, so all she can do is help the government make the appropriate decision. I only wish for

“This business is our passion, we live for it,” she explains. “My whole family, me, my husband, my daughter and our new baby depend on it, not to mention our 20 employees.

“We are truly loved by our community, so we will do everything in our power to keep it from closing.”

Have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing

Please share your opinion in the comments below.

MORE: ‘My daughter will die if I can’t pay my electricity bill’: Families reveal devastating impact of energy cap

MORE : Young, fun and carefree? No chance. How Under-30s Are the Latest Victims of the Cost of Living Crisis

MORE : Kwasi Kwarteng Mini-Budget Essentials