BII calls for Gov support after 78% of operators see trade plummet

By Amelie Maurice-Jones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Take down the tinsel: British Institute of Innkeeping reveals Christmas survey's devastating trade results (Getty/ South_agency)
Take down the tinsel: British Institute of Innkeeping reveals Christmas survey's devastating trade results (Getty/ South_agency)

Related tags: Coronavirus, Finance, Trade, Government, Christmas

British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has called for support to safeguard the future of UK pubs after releasing the results of its Christmas Trading survey which showed trade dropping dramatically for many pubs.

The results of the survey, to which more than 500 licensee operators responded, come after the Government’s decision to move England to Plan B measures to tackle the highly infectious Omicron Covid variant.

Some 78% of respondents reported trade also significantly down on 2019 levels, with two thirds reporting cancelled Christmas bookings and half seeing a reduction in the size of bookings.

BII chief executive Steven Alton said: “The immediate and devastating impact of the Prime Minister’s announcements over the past few days is now clear to see. Our members run welcoming and professional venues where people can safely socialise and reconnect in their communities.”

The survey revealed 76% of operators are having to reduce staff hours, with one quarter claiming they will already be letting staff go. Some 53% are having to reduce their trading hours, and half of respondents have seen significant levels of food waste, with stock ordered to cope with the festive demands now useless.

Cash flow crisis

Alton said: “Often, these small businesses are run by families, who live in their pubs, and they are now facing a Christmas without the trade that they so desperately needed to begin their recovery.

“This presents an immediate cash flow crisis for our members who have invested heavily in the festive season and now simply won’t be able to pay their bills.”

Even since the results of the survey earlier this week, members of the BII were reporting huge increases in cancellations of 75% or more, despite a range of safety measures operating at the pubs, with 47% saying staff were wearing masks, and 30% already limiting their bookings numbers.

According to Alton, while most of these companies have built up debts to ensure they could survive the pandemic, many more have cashed in pensions, emptied savings accounts and borrowed from friends and family on the basis they could trade at pre-pandemic levels.

Having built up an average of over £50,000 of debt per pub over the pandemic, licensees are now facing a cliff edge for business, with the vital trade over the festive season to help rebuilt the sector being taken away.

Government support

“They now need immediate support from Government to enable them to remain as those community pillars, providing that unique experience for people to come together and celebrate, commiserate and connect as human beings,” said Alton.

He continued: “We need support for these essential businesses, now, not in the New Year, as quite simply they will not survive without it. Our members have asked for vital support in the form of the reintroduction of grants, a continuation of the lower rate of VAT and a cancellation of business rates.

“The support and recognition that Government has given to them over the course of the pandemic was key to their survival, but without further and immediate support this Christmas, the investment in these businesses will be wasted and we will see widespread business failure.

“We are calling on the Chancellor to protect his investment and the unique heritage pubs bring to the UK with an emergency package of measures in line with those seen at the beginning of the Covid crisis.”

Related topics: Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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