The number of operating pubs and bars in the UK has fallen by 3,247

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Grappling with changes: Sector saw 3,247 pubs and bars close from March 2020 to September 2021 (Credit: Getty/whitemay)
Grappling with changes: Sector saw 3,247 pubs and bars close from March 2020 to September 2021 (Credit: Getty/whitemay)

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The total number of operating pubs and bars in the UK fell by 3,247 between March 2020 and September 2021.

As of March 2020, there were 47,927 operating venues in comparison to 44,680 by September 2021, and at one point almost 30 pubs a day closed, according to AlixPartners CGA Market Recovery Monitor.

AlixPartners managing director Graeme Smith said: “There has been a gradual reduction in pub numbers over many years, as some venues, for a variety of reasons, have struggled to keep pace or remain relevant in what has been largely a thriving and dynamic eating and drinking out market in the UK in the past 15 years.

Struggling to remain viable 

“Clearly the pandemic will have accelerated closure numbers for businesses that may have already been struggling to remain viable. 

“Pubs in general have traded well when able to reopen but a significant number are independently owned/operated versus restaurants, for example, and therefore they will have had access to less financial resources, to be able to survive.” 

Hospitality has also seen just under 700k job losses across the sector over the last eighteen months and as of October 2021, staffing levels were down 18% compared to two years ago.

Smith added: “It is a complex picture, and the reality is that, notwithstanding the challenges of the past 18 months and some headwinds coming the sector’s way in 2022, there are thousands of successful pubs and bars in the UK and they are a part of the UK’s thriving and dynamic out-of-home food and drink economy.”

Grappling with significant changes 

Although we are coming out of the pandemic the hospitality sector has still been grappling with a number of significant challenges including a tight labour market, supply-chain issues, and material inflationary cost pressures, with the festive period approaching, the most vital time of the year for the vast majority of pub businesses with their busiest, most profitable 6-week trading period of the year, it seems there may well be a few more bumps in the road this winter and well into 2022

Smith added: “In revenue terms, during the initial reopening phase, drinking pubs and bars suffered more from initial capacity constraints but this is less the case now, city centre locations serving office workers were also impacted but this is offset by suburban and country pubs benefiting from work from home.

“Given the scale of restrictions and closure periods imposed on the pub sector, the fact over 90% of the sites have reopened demonstrates the resilience of the sector.”

Related topics Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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