Over 7,000 licensed premises in limbo following ‘Freedom Day’: report

Managed restaurant, pub and bar groups are returning at a faster pace than independents.

More than 7,000 licensed premises have yet to return after last month’s so-called ‘Freedom Day’, according to CGA and AlixPartners’ latest Market Recovery Monitor.

The report revealed that under 5,000 of Britain’s licensed premises opened their doors. Across Britain, 98,790 licensed premises were open by the end of July, said to be 93.0% of the total known sites.

Sharp contrasts between sectors of the hospitality market were observed, including a stronger reopening for eating venues than drinking ones. 98.1% of food-led licensed premises were back trading by the end of July, compared to drink-led sites’ 91.4%.

Managed restaurant, pub and bar groups are returning at a faster pace than independents.
The report said some 98.7% of managed sites are now open, higher than the 89.9% of independently-run venues.
Britain’s total licensed premises declined by more than 9,000 between Spring 2020 and 2021, which was 8.1% of the pre-COVID total, and equivalent to one net closure every hour. 

However, the insights agencies said that total site numbers have edged up slightly in the last two months, indicating that confidence and investment in the sector are starting to return.
“It’s very promising that well over nine in 10 venues are back open again. Trading numbers are now at their highest point since COVID-19 hit, and a modest but steady flow of new venues suggest that the worst of the crisis may now be behind us,” Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said.

“However, with so many sites yet to reopen, more business failures are inevitable. Thousands of businesses remain vulnerable, and their future will now depend on how well they can overcome major challenges such as the high debt levels many have. Consumers are returning to the sector and the pent-up demand is favourable, so getting through the early stages of the recovery is critical for these businesses.”
Graeme Smith, AlixPartners’ managing director, added: “The long-awaited freedom day marked the beginning of a new chapter for hospitality with the focus for operators now shifting to securing a return to viability after almost 18 months of closure and heavily restricted trading. But over 7,000 sites remain in limbo and the question now must be whether these venues will ever reopen under their current ownership or be lost permanently.”

“The well-publicised challenges in the market around labour and product supply only add to a complex picture during what should be peak trading season, with operators across the country taking drastic action through reducing their hours or closing as a direct consequence of these issues,” he concluded.

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