25,000 return to work in pubs

Over half of Ireland’s pubs reopened yesterday to offer outdoor service for the first time this year as publicans reported strong bookings with many booked-out a week in advance.



Getting their pub ready at The Glyde Inn, Annagassan, County Louth were (from left): Paul and Anne O’Neill with their son Conor.

Getting their pub ready at The Glyde Inn, Annagassan, County Louth were (from left): Paul and Anne O’Neill with their son Conor.

In Dublin, some of the pubs reopening had not been open since March the 15th 2020.

Around 4,000 pubs are expected to have resumed trading while 25,000 staff returned to work according to the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland.

But last year’s numerous Lockdowns and partial reopenings played havoc with the lives of pub staff so it’s important that they have confidence that pubs are now on the path to a full reopening said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben.

“For the vast majority of publicans, outdoor service will keep them ticking over until indoor trading resumes on 5th July,” he continued, “We’re acutely aware that thousands of our members cannot open this week as they’ve no outdoor space and will have to wait another four weeks to resume trading.

“There is a sense in the trade that people want to get out of the house and meet up. To get pubs back open will be a great sign the country is returning to normal,” he concluded.

For the moment, the Covid-19 restrictions mean that limited outdoor service will be swamped by the demand from customers, especially on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, with the prospect of indoor service in July offering more capacity.

Most local councils have been progressive in their attitude to the hospitality trade’s plight, with Cork, for example, temporarily pedestrianising 17 streets – up from six originally – to help hospitality businesses get back on their feet.

Even in the event of indoor service being back on the cards next month, the licensed trade will struggle with continuing restrictions.


Trading at under 75% of 2019 in UK

In the UK the vast majority of pubs have been able to open but three-quarters of those that have opened have found themselves trading at less than 75% of 2019 levels. Ongoing trading restrictions there have placed many outlets in a loss-making or break-even position at best according to a new survey from the British Institute of Innkeeping.

Staffing continues to be one of the main challenges there too, with 53% of BII members saying they can’t recruit enough staff to cope with the additional workload created by Covid restrictions. 35% say they’d lost staff as soon as they returned from furlough.  

67% said that a lack of public understanding about the constantly changing rules and regulations for indoor vs outdoor visits has put more pressure on staff to effectively communicate and manage customer visits.


Pandemic debts

Over the course of the Pandemic and the months of closures for their pubs, nearly 60% of BII members have had to take a Bounce Back loan to survive and 24% still face unpaid rent debt too.

Almost 50% have Pandemic-specific debts of over £20,000 per pub and despite using their reserves – in many cases using their savings and borrowing from their own pensions – half of these have debts of between £40,000 and £80,000 per pub reports the BII.

56% have said that they’ll need more than two years to repay the debts accumulated in the Pandemic and half of those will still be paying-off those debts for a minimum of five to 10 years.

Without the full lifting of restrictions (increasingly sketchily penciled in for the 21st of June in England), 11% of businesses will fail, 43% will make a loss and will continue to take on further debt, whilst 34% will only manage to break-even with current regulations in place.

When thinking about the support that they need in place for their businesses to remain sustainable until they trade free of restrictions again 82% say an extension of a full business rate reduction until April 2022 for England, in line with the other devolved nations, is necessary or business-critical.

89% say that a full and fundamental reform of the rates system for pubs is needed to rebalance the burden with the digital economy and other sectors.

To support the strong trading they’ll need to drive their recovery; 89% of BII members surveyed said that the current VAT reduction to 5% needs to be extended until April 2022 with the same number calling for a specific cut in duty for draught products in pubs.

60% say they need help from Government with the rent debt from the Pandemic, with 66% calling for further support from their landlords.

70% say there’s a need for further grant support to help them rebuild their businesses.

“Without the full lifting of restrictions on 21st June, especially table service and social distancing, which render the majority of our members unprofitable, these viable businesses face at the very least an uncertain future, filled with years of debt repayments and at worst, immediate business failure,” commented BII Chief Executive Steven Alton, “We’ve taken our members voices to the heart of Government throughout the course of the pandemic, specifically highlighting the significant role they play in the economy, through employment and support of their local communities across the UK.

“Without real certainty of trading once again, free of restrictions, the vital role they’re able to play at the heart of our nations’ recovery is in jeopardy. We’re calling on Government to now deliver against its roadmap, allowing our pubs to begin their long road to recovery before it’s too late.”


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