Nearly 12,000 licensed premises have closed in Britain since December 2019, an average of around 30 a day and the highest rate on record, according to research from the new edition CGA and AlixPartners.
While 4,170 new sites have been recorded since December 2019, the loss of 11,894 venues means there have been nearly three closures for every new opening, leading to a net loss of 7,724 licensed premises.
The number of permanent closures is also expected to “rise sharply” going forward, as the effects of trading restrictions, including a “catastrophic” drop in trade over the key month of December, impacts the industry.
While the sector now has a roadmap to reopening, the research also suggests that the freedom to trade outside from mid-April will be of limited benefit.
Under half (43.2%) of England’s pubs, bars and restaurants have an outdoor area, and while the number is higher among food pubs (78.4%) and community pubs (71.0%), it is far lower on high streets (25.6%) and in casual dining restaurants (11.4%).
In addition, the latest research found that the food-led sector has been hit harder than the drink-led market, losing 7.6% and 5.5% of total sites respectively. The casual dining sector has contracted by 15.8%, equivalent to more than 1,000 casual dining restaurants, or nearly one in six of the total, closing since December 2019.
Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “These numbers set out the full, devastating impact of the pandemic on Britain’s licensed premises. The wipeout of Christmas trade was clearly the final blow for many businesses, and the long wait that others now face to open their doors sadly means closures will mount even higher.”
Nonetheless, the report noted resilience in some areas of the market, including bars and cafes. In addition, city centres have “proved more durable” than expected, with central Sheffield, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Nottingham all losing fewer than 3% of their licensed premises since December 2019.
Chessell added: “There is huge pent-up demand for hospitality among consumers, and it is encouraging to see signs of resilience in the sector. Pubs have proved more durable than restaurants in recent months, and outside service will give many of them a useful kickstart if the sun shines.
“Amid all the closures, it’s also encouraging to see a steady flow of new entrants to the market. We remain very confident about the long-term future of the sector, but unfortunately there is more pain to come first.”