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Over 75% of licensed sites traded by the end of May

Published:  21 June, 2021

A total of 76.2% of Britain’s licensed sites were trading by the end of May, with the number more than doubling from April’s 32.9% thanks to the return of inside service, according to the latest Market Recovery Monitor research from CGA and AlixPartners.

However, while more than nine in 10 venues in segments including food pubs (91.9%), high street pubs (92.9%) and casual dining restaurants (93.9%) are now open, figures are much lower in sectors that rely on late-night trading, like nightclubs (49.9%) and bars (72.9%).

Overall, the research showed that 25,000 licensed premises were still shut at the end of May, while also highlighting how the delay to a complete reopening puts a significant number of them at risk of permanent closure. 

“Britain already has nearly 10,000 fewer licensed premises than before the pandemic, and that number will sadly rise as a result of the government’s delay,” said Karl Chessell, CGA’s director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA. 

“Coming as it does on top of a mountain of challenges on debt, tax, rising costs, recruitment and much more, hospitality now deserves sustained financial backing to save thousands of businesses and jobs, and the government’s extension of the ban on commercial evictions of tenants is a welcome first step.

“The hospitality sector’s recovery is central to the UK’s economic revival, and more support like this is vital if we are to prevent further casualties,” he said.

Graeme Smith, MD at AlixPartners, added: “Many operators will have reopened in anticipation of restrictions falling away on 21 June, and likely forecast and accepted suppressed trade for the period up to that point. While far from ideal, knowing that ‘Freedom Day’ was on the horizon meant operators could battle through this challenging time, perhaps welcoming team members back to the business in anticipation and getting operations up to speed. 

“A further delay of four weeks is a devastating blow, creating significant uncertainty and further financial strain. At a time when Euro 2020 is in full swing and there is a feel-good factor across the country, this extension to restrictions could not have come at a worse time for pubs and other drink-led venues.”

The Monitor also showed the vulnerability of the independent licensed sector, with only 66.9% of its venues open by the end of May, compared to 93.1% managed sites.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week confirmed that the remaining Covid-19 restrictions would stay in place in England for another four weeks after the planned 21 June easing of rules, with Scotland likely to follow a similar path.