Six pubs demolished or converted per week during coronavirus pandemic

By Stuart Stone contact

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‘Torrid time’: ‘Pubs have endured a torrid time during the pandemic but have proved remarkably resilient aided by Government interventions’ Altus Group’s Robert Hayton said (Image: bizoo_n/ Getty Images)
‘Torrid time’: ‘Pubs have endured a torrid time during the pandemic but have proved remarkably resilient aided by Government interventions’ Altus Group’s Robert Hayton said (Image: bizoo_n/ Getty Images)

Related tags: Property, Finance, Coronavirus, Business rates

Some 384 pubs – on average six per week – have ‘vanished’ during the Covid-19 pandemic so far, having either been demolished or converted for different use, according to new figures from Altus Group.

According to the real estate adviser’s research, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson called last orders in pubs, restaurants and cafes on 20 March 2020 in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus there were 40,886 pubs in England and Wales – including those vacant and being offered to let.

However, in light of three national lockdowns and tiered local restrictions over the last 14 months, that number has fallen by 1% to 40,502, with a total of 384 sites shuttered. 

“Pubs have endured a torrid time during the pandemic but have proved remarkably resilient aided by Government interventions such as furlough, grants, rates relief and liquidity in the form of cheap loans helping to keep the ‘pilot light on’ for their reopening,” Robert Hayton, UK president of expert services at Altus Group, explained. 

The Altus Group’s numbers are based upon a detailed analysis of the Local Rating Lists for the administration of business rates in England and Wales maintained by the Valuation Office Agency, an executive agency of HMRC.

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Regional breakdown 

Altus Group figures show that more pubs were lost in the south east than any other part of the country, with 62 venues demolished or converted for alternative use – such as residential, retail or office space – during the pandemic.  

The region was home to the Kent variant of Covid-19, which quickly became the dominant strain in the UK and saw pubs across its eponymous county unable to open at all over Christmas and thrust into then unprecedented tier four restrictions. 

“I think that period in early December, when the rest of the country was opening up again and we remained on lockdown was very, very demoralising,” Jonathan Neame, CEO of Kent-based brewer and pub operator Shepherd Neame​, explained. “It was very tough on the teams, and then we went into another round of stop-start policies.”

What’s more, the west midlands, Wales, north west and east of England all saw more than 40 pubs shuttered during the same 14 month spell.

Region

20 March 2020

12 May 2021

Pubs lost during pandemic

South east

5,849

5,787

62

North west

5,455

5,411

44

South west

4,782

4,752

30

Yorkshire/Humberside

4,418

4,391

27

West midlands

4,062

4,013

49

East

3,829

3,785

44

East midlands

3,676

3,640

36

London

3,640

3,627

23

Wales

3,135

3,090

45

North east

2,030

2,006

24

Total pub numbers

40,886

40,502

384

Continued closures

These latest figures come as pubs and bars across England and Wales begin to resume indoor trading after the Government gave sites the green light to let drinkers across the threshold under the next phase of its post-lockdown roadmap on 17 May.

They also follow news reported by The Morning Advertiser​ that some 446 pubs vanished from communities in England and Wales in 2020, equating to an average of 37 a month​.

Analysis of Government data by Altus Group showed the overall number of pubs in England and Wales, liable for business rates, including those vacant and being offered to let, fell to 40,617 on 31 December – down 446 (6%) versus 41,063 on 31 December 2019. 

Pubs that ‘disappeared’ have either been demolished or converted into other uses such as homes and offices, according to Altus Group. 

However, Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has attempted to stem the tide of pub closures and conversions by including a £150m fund to help communities revive their local pub in his most recent Spring Budget.

The four-year scheme, which will open in summer 2021, will allow communities to ask Government to double funds any funds they have raised to purchase a local asset, such as a pub, up to the value of £250,000.

Related topics: Property law

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