The UK’s pub sector is appearing increasingly vulnerable as new figures show that around 40 a week are closing down.

Pub Crisis

In March 2020, there were 47,927 pubs and bars in the country, whereas by this September, the number had fallen to 44,680, according to consultants AlixPartners.

The pandemic and the impact of lockdowns are the main reason for business failures and it is thought that those most at risk were run by independent landlords, whereas those run by pub companies are better able to withstand the crisis. However, there is pressure across the whole industry and even Wetherspoons, one of the UK’s biggest pub companies, has recently been shutting pubs, including in Bristol, Nottingham, and St Helens.

One recent pub that has entered into Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation is the well-regarded Black Dog in Oswaldtwistle, East Lancashire, and which had been trading as a hostelry since the early 1800s.

The pub was run by the company Black Dog Ossy Ltd, under the directorship of Colin Manford, brother of comedian Jason Manford, and Emma Kearney. They had been in charge of the pub since 2016. The pub was also a tenant of Thwaites Brewery, which said it was looking to reopen the premises with a new landlord and that it is in talks with interested parties.

Why is the pub sector in trouble?

Simon Renshaw, director with Company Debt, comments: “The pub trade is having an exceptionally difficult time. The pandemic has been devastating, but there are other factors wreaking havoc. This includes the fact that more people are now choosing to drink at home because it’s a lot cheaper and now, the Omicron variant is resulting in bookings for the peak period at Christmas being cancelled. For many, this was a ‘last chance saloon in terms of recovery and now it is in jeopardy.  

“If this was not enough, the whole hospitality sector is struggling with labour shortages – these are also impacting on hotels and restaurants. Brexit has in part prompted an exodus of EU workers and there are around 200,000 vacant roles. It would appear that many are attracting few candidates because there are plenty of jobs elsewhere that do not involve anti-social hours and pay better. This is leading to some establishments 

reducing their hours and so also losing out on revenue. If things couldn’t get any worse, the supply chain problems are impacting food deliveries. Unfortunately, it appears inevitable that the number of hospitality business failures can only continue to rise and will be exacerbated as government support dries up, such as with business rates relief ending on 31 March 2022.”