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16th February 2021

29,000 pubs will stay closed even if outdoor service is allowed in April

BBPA responds to speculation that service outdoors will be permitted from April, urges Government to fully re-open pubs – inside and outside – with non-essential retail

The British Beer & Pub Association, the leading trade association representing brewers and pubs, has today revealed that it believes 29,000 pubs – 60% of all pubs in the UK – will still remain closed if outdoor service is permitted at pubs from April.

The trade association says this is because the majority of pubs in the UK do not have a big enough garden or outdoor space to re-open and serve customers without opening indoors too.

The figures come as speculation and reporting suggests that outdoor service could be permitted in hospitality venues from April.

The BBPA says that as this is unfeasible for the majority of pubs and that pubs should be allowed to re-open fully, outside and inside, when non-essential retail also opens.

It says around 75% of UK pubs have a beer garden or outdoor space, but that only 40% of pubs are likely to have a beer garden or outdoor space big enough. Even then, if many with big enough outdoor spaces did open, they could still struggle to break even as they would still have vastly reduced capacity and significant practical challenges such as the April weather to deal with.

It would mean that if pubs did open outdoors only in April, just 17% of UK pub capacity (both indoor and outdoor) would be opened. This would result in a loss of turnover to the sector of £1.5 billion when compared to trading in normal times. Because of this, the Government would need to continue grant support to all those pubs unable to open at all or who can partially open, but with vastly reduced trade.

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: 

“Let us be clear, outdoor service at pubs is not the same as properly opening pubs both inside and outside and is not commercially viable.

“By our numbers, 29,000 pubs would still be forced to stay shut in April because they simply do not have the beer garden or outdoor space to do it.

“If pubs do open outdoors only in April – we believe just 17% of UK pub capacity will actually open. This would result in a loss of turnover to the sector of £1.5 billion when compared to trading in normal times. That is far from reopening and recovering.

“Even if some pubs did try and open outdoors only in April, all it would take is some heavy rain and they would find it has all been for nothing.

“For many pubs, gardens are at the back and the only way to access them is through the inside. And of course, toilet facilities would still need to be provided.

“We question the Government’s thinking behind this and suggest they consult with us as a sector on it.

“We urge the Government to open our pubs inside – and outside – when non-essential retail also opens. By then, the vaccine will have been rolled out to millions more, and pubs can open whilst continuing to follow exemplary hygiene measures, world leading standards in guidance and social distancing.

“Until then, the Government must do all it can to support our sector until it opens to trade properly in the upcoming Budget.”

Press release from BBPA

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