When the first lockdown hit there were 38,870 pubs and bars in the UK employing 467,000 people. Before the first lockdown, pubs were already closing at a high rate across the UK. In 2019 the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) estimated that pubs were closing at a rate of 18 per week. Although more recent figures have not yet been released it is sadly reasonable to assume that the number of closures has significantly increased as a result of the pandemic. The most recent statistics show that just over 20% of pub landlords report feeling confident that their business will survive.
Community pubs have been providing vital community resources for years, including but not limited to Post Office services, allotments and growing spaces, and child care facilities. Many additional pubs which are not community run, stepped up to provide vital community support during the pandemic. Unfortunately, this has not been reflected in the level of support provided to pubs by the government.
Some of the current issues facing pubs are as follows:
- Rent arrears
- Rising utility prices
- Rising food and drink prices
However, there is help available. Organisations such as the Campaign for Pubs and the British Pub Confederation promote and support pubs and publicans. The Plunkett Foundation provides additional support and guidance to community owned pubs.
Specifically, when tackling debt and rent arrears, it is a good idea for publicans to seek legal advice at an early stage because it might be possible to renegotiate the tenancy agreement or utilise the remaining COVID protection measures applicable to commercial rent arrears.