Britain's hard-hit pubs are among the businesses bearing the brunt of the recession, with up to 40 premises shutting up shop each week.

Cheap supermarket deals on alcohol, the smoking ban and the government's alcohol duty escalator, which increases tax by 2 percent above inflation each year, have been blamed for the closure of many of the country's best-loved locals.

But hard-up landlords think they may have a trick up their sleeve.

The pub quiz has been hailed as a miracle cure for the headache afflicting the industry, and is becoming more popular than ever

While publicans are abandoning their appeal to football fans, whose orders at the bar scarcely meet the cost of a subscription to Sky - more and more pubs are laying on quizzes.

About 23,000 of the UK's 60,000 or so pubs have at least one weekly quiz, according to a survey by the trade magazine The Publican's Morning Advertiser.

Anecdotal evidence from quizmasters, question-setters and pub habitués suggest the number of quizzes has risen as the economy has fallen.

"The reason that they're back in fashion is that there has been a big increase in people applying to be on TV game shows," said Martin Green, the managing director of Redtooth, a company that produces quizzes for more than 4,000 pubs each week, charging publicans £7 a pop.

"That has gone up by 75 percent in the past few years. People are applying to go on Pointless, The Chase and The Million Pound Drop instead of buying a lottery ticket. They think it's far more realistic to get on a game show and win five or ten grand. And there's a lot of them on TV at the moment, and that's getting people back in to pubs, even just to win £20, £30 or £50."

Last year, 600 pubs took part in Redtooth's annual Great British Pub Quiz challenge, which was won by the The Black Bull in Shepley, near Huddersfield.

"You can tell they are on the rise," said Marcus Berkmann, an author who sets a weekly pub quiz at The Prince of Wales in Highgate, north London.

"Landlords tell me that quizzers drink a lot. You start at 8.30pm and by 11pm everyone's drunk. Quizzers knock it back.

"People say football is the thing you have to have in a pub, but people watching football will often sit there and nurse a pint. They are really not always that profitable, given how much it costs to show the matches."

The pub quiz tradition is thought to date back to the 1970s, with landlords seeking to pull in more punters on quieter nights.

Monday to Thursday are the most popular evenings, but Redtooth sells about 50 quizzes for Fridays and Saturdays.

"Pub quizzes are all about showing off - look at me! I'm the cleverest person in this pub," said Green. "People love to win pub quizzes. They've never gone away, and I can't see that they ever will."