By Jessica Newman & Mitchell Labiak
A UKHospitality survey of more than 15,000 hospitality operators, shared exclusively with Property Week, revealed that just 5% of pubs and bars stayed open during lockdown; 53% opened on or around Saturday 4 July; 16% plan to open later in July; 10% expect to open in August; 11% in September; and 5% in October or later.
“I think we’re going to see a mass exodus from the pub industry; lots of people can’t see any light the end of the tunnel,” said Paul Tallentyre, executive director at Davis Coffer Lyons. “In summer, pubs with beer gardens will flourish, but those in cities or small venues will keep closed for a prolonged period as it is not viable to open them.
“There’s going to be so much debris out there. Keys are being tossed back left right and centre.”
Retail and leisure investor Adam Coffer added: “It will be a much slower process than we thought. Despite pent-up demand, we are in an extraordinary time and it will take an extraordinary effort to get out of it.”
Tallentyre said “massive fallout” was likely on September quarter rent day because many operators would have been unable to pay rent for six months, meaning “the landlord can go straight after them”.
Other parts of the hospitality sector saw even fewer operators reopen at the weekend, although in some cases a higher percentage had remained open during the lockdown.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said hospitality operators “were always looking at a gradual, phased approach” to reopening because of the difficulty – particularly for large chains – of opening all their sites at once. In the survey, 20% of operators with more than 250 venues said most of their businesses would stay closed until at least October.
“Until you get more footfall increase, venue operators are waiting,” she added.
Some pubs that did reopen were forced to close again within days after visitors tested positive for Covid-19. Nicholls added that landlords had voiced concerns about the speed at which hospitality venues were reopening and what this meant in terms of their ability to pay rent. “That is the big concern, particularly for the city centre venues,” she said.