Pandemic forces 6,000 licensed venues to close

Hannah Uttley
·2 min read
Closed Cafe de Paris
Closed Cafe de Paris

Nearly 6,000 licensed venues disappeared from high streets and city centres last year, almost triple the number in 2019, as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the hospitality sector.

Government restrictions introduced to curb the spread of coronavirus, combined with a slump in consumer confidence, contributed to a net decline of 5,975 sites during 2020, according to the latest Market Recovery Monitor from consultancies CGA and AlixPartners.

Despite 3,955 new licensed sites opening during the year, this was far outstripped by closures with 9,930 venues shutting permanently, equivalent to 2.5 closures for every new opening in the sector. It meant that there was a net decline of 5,975 sites during the year.

Karl Chessell of CGA urged the Government to step in with further financial support to help businesses survive the coming months.

“With stop-start trading for much of 2020 and a widespread shutdown during what should have been a bumper Christmas, nearly 10,000 licensed venues have not been able to make it through and it is sadly inevitable that thousands more casualties will follow,” he said.

“The case for government support over the next few months is urgent and compelling. There are better days to come, but the sector will be in survival mode for some time yet.”

The casual dining sector was among the hardest hit by closures in 2020, the data showed, with the number of venues dropping by 9.7pc and 3.8 permanent closures for every new opening. Carluccio’s, Pizza Express and Byron Burger, were among some of the biggest casual dining chains that were forced to slash thousands of jobs between them as the crisis dealt a blow to trading.

The sports and social club sector, which has suffered from bans on events and socialising, recorded a decline of 6.2pc.

Graeme Smith, managing director at Alix Partners, said: “The wave of closures seen across the hospitality sector in 2020 have been devastating.

"Businesses, their funders, landlords and other stakeholders urgently need certainty and a roadmap to reopening. The rapid rollout of the vaccine offers hope, but with restrictions unlikely to be lifted until Easter at the earliest, the coming months will likely see more sites lost for good.”