hospitality re-opening with only outdoor service allowed would mean 60% of pubs stay shut and lead to a £1.5 billion loss in turnover for the sector, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has warned.
Downing Street is reported to be considering an “al fresco only” return for pubs, bars and restaurants from around the first weekend in April before indoor drinking and dining several weeks, or even months later.
As soon as the reports emerged this week hospitality leaders responded by calling the plans “grossly unfair”.
On Tuesday the BBPA warned that according to its research, outdoor-only reopening would likely see 60% of all UK pubs remain closed.
Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “By our numbers, 29,000 pubs would still be forced to stay shut in April because they simply do not have the beer garden or outdoor space to do it.
“If pubs do open outdoors only in April – we believe just 17% of UK pub capacity will actually open. This would result in a loss of turnover to the sector of £1.5 billion when compared to trading in normal times. That is far from reopening and recovering.”
The trade body acknowledged that 75% of UK pubs have a beer garden or outdoor space, but said that it found just 40% of pubs are likely to have a beer garden or outdoor space big enough to operate a service.
It also warned that even big beer gardens could “struggle to break even, as they would still have vastly reduced capacity and significant practical challenges”.
McClarkin urged the Government to open pubs at the same time as non-essential retailers to help the industry recover.
The BBPA’s concerns are being raised by pub bosses and operators across the hospitality sector.
They have pointed to typical challenging weather conditions in early April, when average maximum temperatures are 12C.
Patrick Dardis, chief executive at London pub group Young’s, told the Standard yesterday that “outside only is a continuation of the lockdown for the majority of pubs”.
He said: “This is not viable and the Government needs to start listening to a sector that employs 3.5 million. Outdoors, when it’s cold or raining, is a non-starter. We are not a Mediterranean country, this is little old England.”
Wetherspoons’ boss Tim Martin has also said a full pub re-opening at the same time as non-essential retail is essential for getting the sector “off its knees”.
The chairman, whose firm has around 875pubs, added: “Unless the industry does reopen on that basis, economic mayhem will inevitably follow.”
Martin, who has been an outspoken critic of the Government’s handling of hospitality through the pandemic, pointed to the sector’s contribution to the public purse.