30% of licensed venues in Britain closed last month, study finds

A survey found that 69.9% of licensed venues in Great Britain were trading by the end of October, as a combination of a Welsh firebreak, localised restrictions and financial pressure led to closures.

Data from analyst CGA and AlixPartners found that almost a third of licensed venues were shut in Britain ahead of the English national lockdown, which began on 5 November.

The authors said it remains unclear how many of these sites will reopen even when restrictions are lifted.

The number of outlets trading in October fell by over 10% compared to September’s figures and equates to almost 12,000 sites closing.

The authors of the report stated that the findings are a sign the sector could be “substantially reduced” after the end of England’s lockdown on 2 December. A survey conducted by CGA in the middle of last month found that members of three trade groups believed 43% of the closed sites were unlikely to reopen.

This month, restaurants, bars and pubs across England have been ordered to close, but are permitted to remain open as takeaways.

In Wales, the 16-day ‘firebreak’ lifted on 9 November. Hospitality outlets have been allowed to reopen, but tables are limited to groups of four unless from the same household. Licensed outlets are required to close by 10:20pm.

Scotland, which continues to operate under a localised five-tier system, has also placed restrictions on restaurants and pubs. The majority of the country falls in either tier two or tier three.

Restaurants, cafés, pubs and bars in tier two areas, which include Aberdeen and Dumfries and Galloway, are allowed to open. Alcohol can only be consumed indoors with a main meal and indoor venues must close at 8pm. Alcohol can be served more freely outdoors, but with outlets required to close by 10:30pm. However, in tier three areas, which include Edinburgh and Glasgow, venues can open until 6pm, but alcohol cannot be served both indoors and outdoors.

Data from CGA showed that only 52.8% of venues operating under tier three restrictions in England last month were open. This compares to 83.6% in medium or tier one, and 82.8% in high or tier two.

An analysis of independent versus managed pubs and restaurants in Britain found that the former were more likely to be adversely affected by the pandemic. At the end of October, only 63.1% of independent sites were open compared to 81.8% of managed sites.

Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA said October saw an “abrupt end to recovery” after 20,000 sites reopened in August and September.

“With England now entering a second lockdown, we are unlikely to see Britain’s licensed premises return to the levels seen in the summer – let alone pre-pandemic – for a long time,” he said. “Much more support is going to be needed to prevent a wave of permanent closures over the winter.”

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