THE great British boozer, which survived the Nazi blitz and the 1930s recession, could in the end be brought to its knees by high taxes, cheap supermarket beer and the very pub companies set up to run them.

The public house is facing its worst crisis ever as up to 25 to 30 pubs call last orders for good every week.

Bolton has not escaped this trend.

Graham Walsh, secretary for the Bolton branch of real ale campaign group CAMRA, said a cycle of pubs opening and closing made it difficult to say exactly how many pubs the borough had lost in recent years.

But he added: “Our database shows that in 1982 there were approximately 280 pubs in Bolton borough. In the 28 years since then and June 2010, about 90 closed, were demolished, changed use or converted to a restaurant.

“Visitors to Bolton are immediately greeted by boarded-up eyesore pubs such as the Gateway, Lostock Arms and Gypsy’s Tent.”

There are many reasons why pub landlords are throwing the towel over the pumps.

But changing drinking patterns, especially by the young, the smoking ban, cheap supermarket alcohol, high rents and the high cost of buying beers, wines and spirits forced on licensees by pubcos through the tie, could combine to be the “perfect storm” that sinks a once thriving industry.

Beer drinking in Britain goes back a long way as the inhabitants of this small island have been quaffing ale since the Bronze Age.

The arrival of the Romans and their road network saw the first inns, called tabernae, appear.

After the fall of the Roman Empire the Anglo-Saxons established alehouses that developed out of domestic dwellings, where locals met for a gossip and to arrange mutual help within their communities. It was from these homes of ordinary people that the modern pub emerged.

In more modern times the pub landscape changed with the introduction of the Beer Orders legislation in 1989. It was designed to make big breweries sell off parts of their massive estates, often containing thousands of pubs.

This led to thousands of pubs coming on to the market and hastily formed pub companies (pubcos) bought huge numbers and introduced their own tenancy and leaseholds as well as strictly enforced alcohol ties.

In the years following many licensees left the industry penniless complaining that the combination of high rents/leases and high tied alcohol prices, severely restricted their ability to make a proper living out of once profitable pubs.

The British Beer & Pub Association, which represents the industry — and the pubcos — believes it has been wrongly painted as the bad guy in pubs’ demise.

Following a recent critical report into the pubcos’ effects on the industry, chief executive Brigid Simmonds, said: “Significant progress has been made by BBPA member companies which operate tied tenancies and leases.”

She added that calls for a statutory code regulating pubcos would only “pile more costs on to pubs and lead to more closures”.

“Tied pubs continue to offer a low cost means of entry for self-employed pub entrepreneurs,” she added.

“It is a combination of the smoking ban, economic recession and the 35 per cent increase in beer taxation which the industry has endured since March 2008 which are the real reasons why pubs are closing.”

However the GMB union represents many licensees and is lobbying the Government on their behalf to force pubcos to have a level playing field of free trade, fair rents and no beer ties.

A spokesman said: “Jobs are being lost daily and political action is needed to introduce a free market in the pub trade. That was the intention of the Beer Orders legislation.”

■ TOMORROW: The pub campaigners fighting for change