Pub shares mixed amid talk of curfew

Shares in some of Britain’s biggest pub chains felt the pinch on Tuesday morning following reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set a curfew on drinking establishments.

City Pub Group led the pack lower, with shares falling 6.6%.

Wetherspoons, perhaps Britain’s most famous chain of pubs, felt more resilient, with shares merely dropping 0.4%, and some watering holes actually rose.

From Thursday Britain’s pubs, bars and restaurants will be forced to close by 10pm under restrictions that the Prime Minister is expected to announce on Tuesday evening.

Covid-19 cases have spiked in recent weeks following a drive to get people back into restaurants in August and pushes to make office staff go back to their workplaces.

Marston’s fell by 2.8% and Fuller, Smith & Turner dropped by 4.8% as markets opened in London on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, investors in Mitchells & Butlers felt more positive, sending its shares up by 2.5%, and Young And Co’s rose 1.9%.

Tom Musson, an analyst covering pub landlord NewRiver at Liberum, said that companies with pubs in the suburbs are less likely to be harmed by the change.

“Closing at 10pm is going to have more of an impact on town centre and city centre pubs and bars,” he said.

He added: “It is quite possible customers, and certainly those working at home, just come to the pub sooner.”

But the 10pm curfew was met with much more worry from trade body UKHospitality. It’s chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said on Monday evening that the restrictions would be “another crushing blow” for hospitality businesses and called for the rules to be applied flexibly.

“A hard close time is bad for business and bad for controlling the virus – we need to allow time for people to disperse over a longer period,” she said.

“It is hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease when Government data shows that just 5% of infections out of the home are related to hospitality. Where such restrictions have been put in place locally they have not cut infection rates, merely damaged business and cost jobs.”