The pandemic isn't over for pubs yet

By Danielle Boxall, media campaign manager


The past year has been a disaster for pubs - just ask anyone in the industry. Even now they’re fully open (albeit with many lingering restrictions) the nightmare isn’t over. Industry data released this morning by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirms it.


Here are the key takeaways (just not in a plastic cup!):

  • Pubs and bars furloughed 64.5 per cent of staff on average from October 2020 to May 2021. For all other businesses, the figure was 11.9 per cent.
  • From October 2020 to May 2021, an average of 71.6 per cent of pubs and bars reported being more than 50 per cent below their normal expectations for the time of year. This compares to 11.4 per cent for all other businesses.
  • Between 4th and 16th May, the most recent data, only 23.9 per cent of pubs and bars had high confidence that their business would survive the next three months. This compares with 43.8 per cent for all other businesses.

The numbers say it all - confidence in the industry is through the floor. Many struggled to make it to reopening and almost 10,000 were forced to call time at the bar. With over a year’s worth of debt on their back, it’s no wonder only around a quarter of publicans and bar owners think their business will survive the summer. 


Staffing issues in the industry have been making headlines over the past week. Just before  lockdown was lifted on 17th May, 55 per cent of pub staff were on furlough. How many would want to return? The pandemic has allowed all of us to reassess our lifestyles, but no more so than for those working in pubs and bars, having furloughed over 50 per cent more staff on average than other businesses between October and May. 


The sun might be shining on Great Britain, and the summer spending boom just a promising few weeks away. We may be planning long-awaited get-togethers with friends and family, but the problems of the pandemic are still lurking beneath the surface. 25,000 licensed venues have still not reopened. The chancellor has given the industry some relief, with a reduced VAT rate of 5 per cent on food and soft drinks that comes to an end in September. But 4 months respite from taxes will barely touch the sides after the horrendous year hospitality has been through. 


To give pubs and bars enough time to fully recover and get back into the swing of things, this helping hand should be extended until April 2023, when (fingers crossed) the world will be back to normal. Support should also be supplied to bars and wet-led pubs by including alcohol in the cut. 


If the 21st June full lifting does go ahead, many might think the worries of our thousands of pubs and bars are over. These figures show this is surely not the case. This year will define the future of our country’s best-loved institutions, and a tax cut is exactly what they need.


Sign the TPA’s petition to extend the VAT cuts here

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