Greene King to close 79 pubs and cut 800 jobs

Pub company Greene King, which is owned by Hong Kong’s richest family, will close 79 pubs within its portfolio, claiming the UK’s new coronavirus restrictions have made its current business unsustainable.

Bar and restaurant owners have endured mounting operating restrictions over the past month as the government has struggled to contain a surge in coronavirus cases.

79 sites will close at least temporarily, but around one third of these are expected to be closed for good by CK Asset (CKA), the Hong Kong asset firm that bought Greene King for £4.6 billion last year.

In a statement this week, Greene King, which operates roughly 3,100 pubs and restaurants in the UK, pinned the blame on the UK’s coronavirus restrictions.

Hospitality venues have been banned from serving customers after 10pm since 24 September as part of the government’s attempts to slow the spread of coronavirus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. The restrictions could stay in place for six months.

The policy has been widely condemned by bar owners, many of whom say as much as 70% of their sales are made late in the evening.

Scotland’s hospitality sector, meanwhile, is under even more pressure. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ordered pubs to close for two weeks across the central belt of Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, and will impose a 6pm in other areas from Friday (9 October) in a bid to suppress a second wave of Covid-19.

Nick Mackenzie, Greene King CEO, said the shutdown in Scotland is “a devastating blow for the thousands of people who work in the industry.”

“The sector has already seen pub closures and job losses and a second shut-down will see more closures and lost jobs in every Scottish community. We welcome the acknowledgement that support is needed but are concerned that £40m won’t go far enough and urgently need to understand the detail and the speed this can be deployed.”

Other parts of the UK including Liverpool and Manchester have also had restrictions imposed on opening hours, cleaning standards and households mixing indoors in the past week.

A Greene King spokesperson said: “The continued tightening of the trading restrictions for pubs, which may last another six months, along with the changes to government support was always going to make it a challenge to reopen some of our pubs.

“Therefore, we have made the difficult decision not to reopen 79 sites, including the 11 Loch Fyne restaurants we announced last week.

“Around one-third will be closed permanently and we hope to be able to reopen the others in the future.

“We are working hard with our teams to try and find them a role in another of our pubs wherever possible.”

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