60% of pubs would remain closed if outdoor trading rule enforced

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Rule impact: should pubs only be able to trade outside in April, it will mean 60% of them won't be able to open at all
Rule impact: should pubs only be able to trade outside in April, it will mean 60% of them won't be able to open at all

Related tags: British beer & pub association, Emma McClarkin, Government, Legislation, Property

Some 29,000 pubs will have to stay shut if the Government rules outdoor service only is permitted in April.

This equates to 60% of the UK’s pubs that won’t be able to reopen due to not having enough space externally, according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

It added if external areas only were required to reopen for April, less than a fifth (17%) of pub capacity would be opened, resulting in a drop in turnover for the sector of £1.5bn compared to normal time trading.

The trade body called for continuing grant support for the pubs that would have to remain shut and those who could partially reopen but with reduced trade.

The BBPA stated while three quarters (75%) of pubs have a beer garden or outdoor area, just 40% are likely to have large enough spaces.

The trade association also outlined how the inclement weather could mean outdoor areas wouldn’t be suitable anyway and even for the pubs that could utilise this space, they could still struggle to breakeven due to reduced capacity.

Not commercially viable

Over the weekend (Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 February), various national publications reported the Government was considering plans to allow pubs to serve in external areas from Easter before permitting inside service a month later.

Many of those in the trade took to social media to voice their frustration​ about the impact this will have on the industry alongside claims the Government was "leaking" this information to test public opinion.

On the numbers of pubs that would have to stay shut, BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Let us be clear, outdoor service at pubs is not the same as properly opening pubs inside and outside and is not commercially viable.

“By our numbers, 29,000 pubs would still be forced to stay shut in April because they simply do not have the beer garden or outdoor space to do it.

“If pubs do open outdoors only in April – just 17% of the UK pub capacity will actually be open. This would result in a loss of turnover to the sector of £1.5bn when compared to trading in normal times. That is far from reopening and recovering.

“Even if some pubs did try and open outdoors only in April, all it would take is some heavy rain and they would find it has all been for nothing.”

World-leading standards

She went on to call on the Government to reopen pubs inside and outside when non-essential shops open their doors again – something that has been repeated by others in the trade such as Admiral Taverns chief executive Chris Jowsey​ and JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin.

McClarkin added: “For many pubs, gardens are at the back and the only way to access them is through the inside and of course, toilet facilities would still need to be provided.

“We question the Government’s thinking behind this and suggest they consult with us as a sector on it.

“We urge the Government to open our pubs inside and outside when non-essential retail also opens. By then, the vaccine will have been rolled out to millions more and pubs can open while continuing to follow exemplary hygiene measures, world-leading standards in guidance and social distancing.

“Until then, the Government must do all it can to support our sector until it opens to trade properly in the upcoming Budget.”

Related topics: Legislation

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