Pubs face ‘worrying’ future as 15,000 could close during pandemic

Up to 15,000 pubs could permanently close if they are not allowed to reopen until the end of September, an industry boss has warned.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the coronavirus pandemic had been “devastating” for the sector financially.

And she warned pubs could be facing a “double hit” when they reopen as changes to consumer behaviour could see them reluctant to socialise in large numbers.

Ms McClarkin said it was now vital the Government agrees to provide financial support to the industry even after pubs begin trading again.

“I am very, very worried about the sector,” Ms McClarkin told the PA news agency.

“If you are looking [to reopen pubs] at the end of summer, it is looking very stark indeed.

“We could be losing 40% of our businesses if they do not open by the end of September.”

Ms McClarkin said the figure equates to about 15,000 pubs and breweries.

On how pubs will operate in the future, she said staff will likely greet customers at the door and show them to a table to take their order – rather than at the bar.

Staff could also be required to monitor toilets to ensure patrons are abiding by social-distancing measures.

Ms McClarkin said the perceived vision of people cramming into pubs once they eventually reopen was “something of the past”.

“There are going to be much fewer people inside our pubs and that is part of the reality going forward,” she said.

“In the current situation, people are nervous about going out, but they are definitely nervous about socialising in the way they used to and it will take time to build that consumer confidence.”

She said the two-metre distancing rule would also limit indoor capacity by about 70%.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to reveal the Government’s “road map” on how the UK’s lockdown measures will be eased.

Ms McClarkin said while it was important for pubs to start trading again, she said opening in the wrong conditions would not be in “anyone’s interests”.

“A fatal blow for many pubs would be a secondary closure”, she said, referring to the risk of another lockdown later in the year should the pandemic worsen.

“We will be losing a part of our British culture if we let our pubs close for good.”

In regard to future funding, Ms McClarkin said additional support will be needed once pubs reopen as it will take “a long time” for them to build up trade.

Landlords are also facing increased costs around cleaning and the possibility of having to invest in personal protection equipment (PPE) for staff, she added.

The Government is currently offering hospitality businesses grants of up to £25,000 if their rateable value is less than £51,000.