A report in the UK claims almost a quarter of pubs remained closed at the end of August due to the pandemic, with the plight worse for restaurants, just as new social-distancing measures come into force today (14 September).

Data research provider CGA and consultancy AlixPartners said the business environment remains tough for many independent bars and other licensed premises, especially in London. From today, restrictions banning social gatherings of more than six people come into effect across the country.

Around three quarters (76.3%) of licensed premises have returned to trading since the sector was given permission to reopen early in July, 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, according to the Market Recovery Monitor report from the two parties.

The pace of recovery has varied by sector, the report notes. Pubs have been quicker to return after the end of lockdown than restaurants, with nine in 10 food pubs (94%) and community pubs (89.4%) trading by the end of August. 

Casual dining restaurants have been slower to return, but the UK government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme and a cut in VAT “incentivised many to reopen over August”, and more than four in five (83.8%) are now trading, up by 20 percentage points on July, it said.

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By GlobalData

While many independently-run premises returned over August, their trading numbers (68.2%) remain much lower than the group-managed side of the market (89.1%). Central London is 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%).

“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,” said Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA.

“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. 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.”