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Four in ten pubs fear closure because of pandemic

12 May 2020

A survey of over 500 pub owners conducted by the Forum of Private Business has found that nearly four in ten pubs say they are not confident of surviving a June lockdown.

The survey of 560 pubs carried out on behalf of the Forum of Private Business (FPB) also reveals that less than one in three are at all confident of opening their doors again if the pub lockdown rules remain in place until the end of the year.

The latest guidance from the government says that cafes, restaurants and pubs with outdoor space could open from July. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), said: "We are pleased to see pubs included as part of the possible reopening of the hospitality sector in July. This would be great news for those pubs who can meet the social distancing measures required by then."

However, she said that "no two pubs are the same" and so "for many it may be a considerably longer time until they can fully re-open". The BBPA has offered to partner with the government on the pilot testing of new COVID-19 secure guidelines to ensure pubs are fully included.

McClarkin said: "We believe that pubs should only open when safe to do so, but without additional support now - particularly for those who won't be able to re-open sooner - many more of our nation's pubs and the brewers that supply them with beer will struggle to survive closure and beyond. To this end we will continue to press the government for the ongoing support our sector needs."

Despite the difficulties being faced by the pub sector, the FPB survey findings show that less than 20% of pubs say they have been forced to make any redundancies so far, although 86% are no longer paying full salaries.

Only one in five have felt the need to apply for a Coronavirus Loan under the CBILS scheme; however, of those applying for a loan less than 4% had been successful at the time of the survey. In addition, two out of five are still awaiting receipt of the £25,000 retail, hospitality and leisure fund payment.

Support from the pub companies remains "disappointingly variable" says the FPB. Of the 560 respondents polled, more than two-thirds were tied pub tenants. Yet more than 40% reported that they were still being asked to pay either partial or full rental despite being closed.

"The pub sector sits at the heart of our communities and the prospect of more than a third of them disappearing if the lockdown becomes anything like prolonged threatens an enormous impact," said FPB managing director Ian Cass. "Much of the potential for survival lies in the hands of the PubCo's, and whilst congratulating those who have deferred or cancelled rental payments, we would again call upon those who haven't, to do so without delay."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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