Boss of pub chain says new rules add to woes including soaring costs that could further push up the price of a pint
The price of a pint could rise by about 10p as a result of the latest Covid restrictions, according to the chairman of the City Pub Group who said Christmas party cancellations had risen since the move to plan B was announced on Wednesday.
Clive Watson said the cost of a pint was already on course to rise by about 25p as a result of higher costs, including energy and wage bills, but that weaker than expecting trading over the key Christmas period would lead to further hikes.
“From about 10 days ago, office parties started to get cancelled, particularly those office parties which were being funded by companies, so typically parties for 40 to 50 people,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
While some companies had postponed their celebrations until the new year when there may be more certainty, others had cancelled their parties outright.
“After yesterday’s announcement, that has again accelerated, so we’ve seen … a meaningful drop off in those types of bookings”, Watson said.
It could result in further pain for chains such as City Pub Group, which has 50 pubs in market towns and cities nationwide.
“Not only are you not making the money, but you’re not building out the cash to help you in the very lean periods in January and February … It’s almost like just taking off the life support machine,” he said.
“Energy prices have gone through the roof. Labour prices … have also gone up significantly. Inflation is running at 5%. A price of beer in London could be £5. So that comes out at 25p but probably has to increase even more over the course next year.
“But … now we haven’t got the Christmas froth that we were anticipating and somehow we have got to try and recoup that,” Watson said. “[So that’s] probably another 10p.”
He joined a chorus of hospitality bosses now calling for government support to help prop up the sector amid restrictions that include work-from-home orders, which could reduce footfall in city centre establishments over the crucial Christmas period, which makes up a third of some businesses’ annual profits.
Watson said he did not oppose the introduction of public health measures, but wanted proportionate assistance from the chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
“If that helps slow down the progress of this horrible variant, fine. But please, please give us an enhanced state aid to help tide us over to those leaner months in January and February. Otherwise, a lot of businesses in our sector will run out of cash,” Watson said.