A quarter of licensed premises yet to reopen

Nearly a quarter of licensed premises were yet to reopen at the end of August, according to the latest market recovery monitor from CGA and AlixPartners.

Its latest data found that the London market was “particularly slow” to recover, while only 76.3% of sites have returned to trading since the sector was given permission to reopen from 4 July. 

The figures at the end of August mark an increase of more than 14 percentage points on the total of 61.7% sites trading at the end of July, but indicates that nearly 27,000 licensed premises had not yet opened their doors. 

While more independently-run premises returned to trade over August, their trading numbers remained lower than group-managed sites, at 68.2% and 89.1% respectively.

Central London was still “well below capacity” with 71.2% of sites open, compared with other major cities like Liverpool (81.5%), Manchester (79.9%) and Birmingham (79.6%).

The latest data also showed that the pace of recovery has varied significantly by sector. 

Pubs have been quicker to return than restaurants, with 94% of food pubs and 89.4% of community pubs trading by the end of August. 

Casual dining restaurants have been slower to return, but the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme and VAT cut incentivised many to reopen over August, according to CGA, with 83.8% now trading, up by 20 percentage points on July.

In other sectors openings have been “notably slower”, with only 67.2% of bars and 54.7% of licensed sports and social club venues now open. It comes as these premises were “particularly restricted” by social distancing and other coronavirus-related precautions. 

Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA, said: “After the sector’s toughest ever spring and early summer, it is pleasing to see more than 15,500 venues reopened over August, but concerning that nearly one in four licensed premises are still shut.

“The Eat Out to Help Out scheme and VAT cut had the desired effects of encouraging more operators to reopen and stimulate trade, and there was some pleasing progress for the casual dining restaurant sector.” 

He added: “However, new restrictions on gatherings, slow London footfall and the risk of local lockdowns all give cause for caution as we move into the autumn.

“August showed us that the sector can recover well with the backing of government and consumers, but it is clear that support needs to be sustained for some time to come.”

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