Quarter of Britain’s licensed premises yet to reopen since lock-down: Almost a quarter of Britain’s licensed premises were still to reopen at the end of August, with the London market particularly slow to recover, the latest edition of the Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners has revealed. It showed just over three quarters (76.3%) of sites have returned to trading since the sector was given permission to reopen in early July. This is an increase of more than 14 percentage points on the total of 61.7% sites trading at the end of July, but indicates almost 27,000 licensed premises remain shut. While many independently run premises returned during August, their trading numbers (68.2%) remain much lower than the group-managed side of the market (89.1%). Central London is still well below capacity with 71.2% of sites open, compared with other major cities such as Liverpool (81.5%), Manchester (79.9%) and Birmingham (79.6%). The Market Recovery Monitor showed the pace of recovery has varied significantly by sector. Pubs have been quicker to return after the end of lock-down than restaurants, with nine in ten food pubs (94%) and community pubs (89.4%) trading by the end of August. Casual dining restaurants have been slower to return, but the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme and VAT cut incentivised many to reopen over August, and more than four in five (83.8%) are now trading—up by 20 percentage points on July. Openings have been notably slower in other segments of the market. Two thirds (67.2%) of bars and just over half (54.8%) of licensed sports and social club venues are back open, with both particularly restricted by social distancing and other coronavirus-related precautions. “After the sector’s toughest ever spring and early summer, it is pleasing to see more than 15,500 venues reopened over August, but concerning that nearly one in four licensed premises are still shut,” said Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA. “The Eat Out To Help Out scheme and VAT cut had the desired effects of encouraging more operators to reopen and stimulate trade, and there was some pleasing progress for the casual dining restaurant sector. However, new restrictions on gatherings, slow London footfall and the risk of local lock-downs all give cause for caution as we move into the autumn. August showed us the sector can recover well with the backing of government and consumers, but it is clear that support needs to be sustained for some time to come.”
BBPA fears business rates bill will be “last straw” for many pubs: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has said an £800m business rates bill could be “the last straw” for many UK pubs. The BBPA voiced concerns that should the pub sector-specific relief on business rates end as planned in March 2021, pubs will face the hefty £800m bill as they struggle to see off covid-19. The news comes as stage one of the government’s review into business rates closes this week. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Ending the business rates relief for pubs and handing them a bill of £800m – an average of £25,000 per rate paying pub – could be the last straw for thousands of pubs. Given that all these pubs made it through the lock-down – over 15 weeks without being able to open their doors – and have remained viable businesses despite social distancing and significantly lower footfall, it would be devastating for them to fall at the final hurdle in the post-lock-down recovery. It would mean much of the government’s vital support for the sector through lock-down would have been wasted. This is why we are asking the government to extend the relief and help protect our great British pubs and the hundreds of thousands of jobs they support. Investing in our pubs now will enable them to survive and thrive into 2021 and beyond, help lead the economic recovery and generate a larger tax revenue for the government in the future.” The BBPA has called for the government to extend its pub sector relief on business rates for at least another year. The trade body said extending the rate relief for pubs could save thousands of locals and provide worthy investment for the government, saving tens of thousands of jobs and securing future tax revenue from pubs in the longer term, as well as preserving thousands of pubs that are the heart of their communities across the UK.