22% of independent pubs ‘have days left to survive’, research reveals

As pubs and restaurants close, cut back on staff or rethink their business models due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the latest research reveals that 22% of independent pubs are within days of going under.

According to data compiled by app MatchPint and KAM media, which collected information from a total of 317 pubs, 52% of individual pub operators and licensees said they would not survive more than one month, despite measures announced by UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak earlier this week.

In his address, Sunak said he would extend the business rates holiday announced in last week’s budget to cover all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. He is expected to give more details about how the government will help businesses in due course.

Despite this, the data found that 22% of individual pub operators said they had just days to survive, with the principle reason behind their anxiety being a failure to be able to pay rent due on 25 March.

While private renters and housing association tenants, as well as landlords, have received assistance from the government in the form of eviction suspension and mortgage holidays, businesses are still being left in the lurch.

But there is some good news. Brewer and pub operator Greene King has told its tenants that it will delay rent collection and associated payments until further notice.

Similarly, Young’s has enforced a ‘property’ rent holiday for three months for its tenants. In a statement it said that it was expecting some or all of its pubs to close at some point, but that it hopes that this will be of short duration.

Brewer Thwaites has also delayed rent collection until the end of April, as has Star Pubs & Bars.

The industry is backing proposals set out by Milk & Honey owner and Street Feast founder Jonathan Downey to create a six-month lease forfeiture moratorium to stop landlords from taking control of premises due to non-payment of rent due on 25 March and 24 June. This needs to be coupled with similar arrangements for landlords and businesses.

MatchPint and KAM media’s data states that two-thirds of pubs say they will have less than 20% of their total staff remaining should current measures be in place for the next 12 weeks.

The industry is pushing for a rescue plan that would involve giving £250 per employee per week until the end of June, costing £4 billion to save a total of one million jobs.

Even before the government’s social distancing measures were enforced, pubs, bars and restaurants had been struggling.

According to data from CGA, like for like sales in Britain were down 15% in the week to last Sunday.

CGA’s Coffer Peach Business Tracker revealed that like-for-like sales in restaurant chains were down 21%, managed pubs by 12% and bars by 14%, in the week from 9 to 15 March 2020.

“Public concern about the virus was already taking its toll on the out-of-home market even before Boris Johnson’s intervention on Monday. We can only expect the figures to worsen this week,” said Phil Tate, chief executive of CGA said.

“We also know that London has been hit much harder than other parts of the country, even before the spate of closures that have followed the official advice to stay at home and avoid pubs, bars and restaurants.”

In a poll published on 17 March, a sample of 500 customers aged between 18 and 65 found that 58% who regularly visit pubs, bars and restaurants will stop visiting, with a further 28% saying they will go less frequently.

35% of those surveyed said they would get food delivered as a result of government advice.

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