Rate of British on-trade closures hits record high

1st March, 2021 by Owen Bellwood

Nearly 12,000 licensed premises have closed in Britain since December 2019, equivalent to 30 a day, according to a new study.

A study found that on average 30 British bars close every day

The latest edition of the Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and Alix Partners found that 11,894 on-trade venues across Britain have closed since December 2019, the highest rate on record.

During the period, 4,170 new sites have been recorded, meaning there has been a net loss of 7,724 licensed premises since December 2019.

Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “These numbers set out the full, devastating impact of the pandemic on Britain’s licensed premises.

“The wipeout of Christmas trade was clearly the final blow for many businesses, and the long wait that others now face to open their doors sadly means closures will mount even higher.”

The Market Recovery Monitor found that the food-led sector has been hit harder by Covid-19 than the drink-led market, losing 7.6% and 5.5% of total sites respectively.

The report also found that many city centres have proved more resilient than expected, with central Sheffield, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Nottingham all losing fewer than 3% of their licensed premises since December 2019. In London, the number of licensed venues fell by 6.3%.

Chessell added: “There is huge pent-up demand for hospitality among consumers, and it is encouraging to see signs of resilience in the sector.

“Pubs have proved more durable than restaurants in recent months, and outside service will give many of them a useful kickstart if the sun shines. Amid all the closures, it’s also encouraging to see a steady flow of new entrants to the market. We remain very confident about the long-term future of the sector, but unfortunately there is more pain to come first.”

While a roadmap to the reopening of the hospitality sector has now been published, allowing venues to serve outside from 12 April, CGA suggested this move could be ‘of limited benefit’ to the sector.

Graeme Smith, Alix Partners managing director, said: “While permitting businesses to trade outdoors from mid-April will clearly benefit some segments of the market, a significant proportion of operators, even some of those with outdoor space, will not find it a viable option. For many businesses, it will not be until mid-June, when restrictions are more fully lifted, that they will be able to trade on a profitable basis.”

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