Coronavirus Recovery: 'We have not yet got to a point where we are close to paying off the losses'

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Company update: JW Lees boss William Lees Jones reveals how the business is trading (image: Getty/Andrew Brookes)
Company update: JW Lees boss William Lees Jones reveals how the business is trading (image: Getty/Andrew Brookes)

Related tags: Jw lees, Beer, Hotel, Public house

Trading has been mixed but operators are unlikely to know the full extent of the reopening until next April, William Lees-Jones, managing director of JW Lees Brewery has predicted.

Speaking to The Morning Advertiser​, Lees-Jones said: “None of us are really going to know where we are up to until next April and May due to the rent moratoriums and things.” 

He added that the brewer and pub operator was currently trading well since reopening. He revealed that there was a lag of two weeks after the removal of restrictions as many consumers waited to see how safe it was to come out.  

“August was better than last year when we had ‘eat out to help out’ and that is really phenomenal,” he said. 

Its city centre pub sites have been “really slow” to come back but Lees-Jones said it has never had such high occupancy of its hotel rooms.  

“It is ridiculous as there has been 100% occupancy in many,” he added.  

“But we have not yet got to a point where we are close to paying off the losses that have racked up and the loans.” 

Cask beer performance

However, on the beer side of the business he revealed that cask beer was taking a hit, with many ranges on the bar cut back. 

“We have people who only want to put one cask beer on the bar as they say they can’t risk the wastage. They are still worried about all the beer that had to be thrown away when we had lockdown,” he said.  

He also revealed that many supermarkets have delisted lots of beers from regional brewers. 

“On the other side there are dark forces at bay, where you have big international brand owners who can see that this is a good opportunity to cement listings and spaces on bars,” he revealed.  

“A lot of the pub companies have quite aggressively retendered their listings so there is a lot of challenge there.” 

He remains frustrated with the Government and its lack of understanding of how the hospitality sector works. He said politicians are already saying that hospitality as had enough support. 

Siege mentality

“Our focus is on the basis that we are a long established company and have got a lot of solid foundations,” he said. 

“The people that I really feel for is the smaller, younger businesses that don’t have that cash flow who unfortunately and inevitably are going to go out of business, which is terrible as people have put their life savings and work into something and they don’t deserve this.’

On future trading for the sector he said: “We just don’t know”

“We have developed a bit of a siege mentality. We are lucky because we own our freeholds and are not at the whim of big institutional landlords,” he added. 

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