UK: 2,000 pubs and 12 m hl of beer are lost forever

One year after the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has revealed that 2,000 pubs are estimated to have been lost forever to date. In addition UK’s brewers and pubs have lost 2.1 billion pints (12 million hl) in beer sales due to a full year of either forced closure, or trading under severe restrictions, and GBP 8.2 billion (USD 11.4bn) in trade value wiped out from the sector in beer sales alone.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, pubs have faced a further two lockdowns. They have also faced severe restrictions to their trade during other periods of being “open”, including tier restrictions that ultimately forced many to stay shut regionally or open but under conditions that made their trade unviable due to the 10pm curfew and substantial meal rules.

Last month Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the Government’s roadmap indicating that pubs will reopen outdoors only from April 12th at the earliest, followed by indoors from May 17th at the earliest and with all restrictions lifted by June 21st at the earliest.

Whilst the BBPA has welcomed continued support for the sector in the most recent Budget, in the form of GBP 2 billion (USD 2.77bn) worth of measures including grants and furlough support, it stated that longer term investment in the sector was still needed.

It also expressed concern for wet-led pubs (pubs that focus on selling drink, not food) who would not be able to take advantage of the VAT cut for hospitality, which only applied to food, soft drinks and accommodation, and urged the Government to provide more support for these community pubs.

It says it is now all the more important that pubs can operate without restrictions from June 21st as stated in the Government’s roadmap for reopening, to aid with their recovery and the economic fightback after the virus. This comes as new research by the think tank Localis revealed that pubs have a vital role to play in the COVID-19 recovery and Government’s own levelling up agenda, but that to do so they must reopen fully by June 21st.

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the BBPA, said: “Our sector has been devastated by COVID-19 and the lockdowns. It has been a year to forget for the Great British Pub.

“Sadly, we still haven’t seen the full extent of the damage yet and won’t do for some time until things really do go back to normal. And by normal, I mean a return to what life was like pre-covid.

“Whilst we continue to assess the full damage to our sector, I urge the Government to look at providing more support for our wet-led community pubs who, although grateful for all the support they received in the Budget, will not benefit from the VAT cut to food in the same way restaurants will. Local wet-led pubs have been amongst the worst affected by the virus so it’s important the Government goes that little bit further for them.

“It is becoming all the more clear that the Government must ensure all our pubs are fully re-opened on June 21st as indicated in the roadmap. This is when their recovery will really start and until then we stand to lose more pubs and community assets.”

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