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Editor’s Choice

Published:  16 October, 2020

The on-trade’s woes dominated the news in a week when Boris Johnson first announced a new three-tier lockdown system, ahead of swathes of the UK being impacted by varying degrees of social gathering and curfew restrictions, along with outright closure in Northern Ireland and Tier 3 restrictions in the Liverpool region, once again impacting heavily on hospitality.

Monday’s figures from the latest CGA and AlixPartners’ Market Recovery Monitor report set the grim tone, revealing that the number of licensed premises trading across Britain is down by nearly 25,000 on March levels, with re-openings stalling.

New support was offered for hospitality businesses forced to shut, but UK Hospitality (UKH) led the calls for more to be done to help save jobs and companies in the sector, while the WSTA also pushed for more support for on-trade suppliers left high and dry as their customers continued to suffer.

And so the bad news continued to roll, with Wednesday delivering the latest predictions from Wine Intelligence modelling that 2020 will see a -2% dip year-on-year for off-trade drinks sales, but a mighty -30-40% fall in the on-trade.

Christmas trading, with restrictions on households meeting coming and the looming spectre of a possible second hard national lockdown, will clearly not be riding to anybody’s rescue.

Then on Thursday, with a weary sense of déjà vu, the government’s latest widely leaked plan set to become reality, with Tier 2 restrictions imposed on London and other UK regions, while Manchester and other northern and Midland regions face Tier 3 in the very near future.

All that was left was for the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker to crunch the figures, released today (Friday), and assess quite how bad the damage is that has already been done. Total sales across Britain’s managed pub, restaurant and bar groups sector in September were 20.3% down on the same month last year, pointing starkly to the severity of the financial crisis across the wider on-trade sector.

Friday also brought more from UKH, with CEO Kate Nicholls warning that 200,000 hospitality jobs could be lost this weekend in London alone, with the squeeze on revenue now so harsh for so many, but with no support offered for the impact of Tier 2 restrictions.

With such a rough ride so far, and worse likely to come, it goes beyond the obvious to state that government needs to act decisively and act now to help save as much of the sector as possible.