Pub closures ‘stabilise’ despite Covid-19 shutdown

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Stable pub numbers: 228 pubs called last orders in the first half of 2020 compared to 235 for the same period in 2019
Stable pub numbers: 228 pubs called last orders in the first half of 2020 compared to 235 for the same period in 2019

Related tags Pubs Beer Public house Alcoholic beverage

The latest figures on pub closures have revealed that the number of pubs in England and Wales calling final orders in the first half of 2020 remained flat year-on-year, despite the enforced closure in March.

According to commercial real estate advisory firm, Altus Group, pub closures in England and Wales “stabilised” during H1 2020 – 25 December 2019 to 25 June 2020 – with 228 sites calling last orders compared to 235 for the same period in 2019. 

The real estate advisor also revealed that the overall number of pubs in England and Wales now stands at 40,835 – a drop of 466 versus the same period in 2019 meaning that, on average, nearly nine pubs have closed per week in the last 12 months.

Overall pub numbers in England and Wales

H2 2018 - 41,536

H1 2019 - 41, 301

H2 2019 - 41,063

H1 2020 - 40,835

On top of this, the rate at which pubs are either being demolished or converted into homes, offices or other such developments, was found to have halved from the 914 in 2018. 

Regional split

According to Altus Group figures, most closures during the six-month period were recorded in the East of England, spanning Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, with 36 pubs shutting between 25 December 2019 and 25 June 2020 – roughly one every five days. 

What’s more, despite boasting the highest pub population in England and Wales, the south east saw 33 pubs close during the same time frame, while the north west saw 34 venues call last orders. 

In contrast, London saw just 11 pubs close during the same period, while the north east, Wales, East Midlands, South West and Yorkshire/Humberside also saw pubs close at a rate of less than one per week during H1 2020. 

Impact of new rules 

News of the stabilising of pub closures comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on 23 June that pubs and bars across England could reopen on 4 July​ in keeping with his Government’s original exit strategy.

However, according to a poll by HIM/MCA Insight - a division of The Morning Advertiser’s​ parent company William Reed Business Media - 50% of pubs may opt not to resume trading​ on 4 July.

While Robert Hayton, head of UK. business rates at Altus Group, said the Government’s measures to support pubs during the enforced Covid-19 closure have undoubtedly helped the sector, he urged caution moving forwards as enormous challenges lay ahead.

“Pubs in England and Wales are receiving a one-year business rates holiday worth £768.12m which started on 1 April as well being eligible for £557.94m in grant funding. These interventions have gone a long way to saving our pubs ensuring that they can reopen safely.

“However, some change of use applications may have been held up due to delays in local planning whilst it also remains to be seen, once the first few cold beers have been downed, the impact on trade new strict rules will have moving forward.”

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