Revolution bars chief says UK government treatment of hospitality sector 'scandalous'

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2 min read
Empty tables on pedestrianised street outside bar Revolution on Bedford Place in Southampton. All pubs, bars, restaurants in England must have a 10pm closing time from Thursday, to help curb the spread of coronavirus.
Revolution in Southampton. Photo: PA

The head of Revolution Bars (RBG.L) has called the UK government’s treatment of hospitality firms during the pandemic “nothing short of scandalous.”

The company posted pre-tax losses of £3.9m ($5.3m) on an adjusted basis in its preliminary full-year results on Thursday, compared to a profit of £3m a year earlier.

The group has 34 bars that are currently unable to trade in Tier 3, and it said another 32 in Tier 2 had only “marginal” viability as they can only serve alcohol alongside substantial meals.

Its results suggest the average shut-down bar in Tier 3 areas is losing £26,000 a month even after government grants and furlough support.

CEO Rob Pitcher said extra £1,000 hospitality grants announced earlier this month to cover losses during the crucial pre-Christmas trading period were “derisory and insulting.”

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The grants decision “underlines a complete lack of understanding of the costs associated with businesses of this nature (even when they are shut) or any sympathy for the consequences of their inept decisions,” he said.

“The UK government's actions towards wet-led bars and late-night hospitality are nothing short of scandalous.”

He called for more support to “safeguard” the industry and avoid job losses.

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But he added: “Prior to the onset of the pandemic we were reaping the rewards of the workstreams we introduced last year to improve performance with both brands in like-for-like sales growth, out-performing our High Street Bars peer group.

“However, given the actions we have taken to secure the future of the business, I am confident that Revolution will emerge from this crisis as a more focused business, and in a strong position relative to our competition, ready to seize any opportunities that arise.”

The results appeared less damaging than expected, with Revolution shares surging 13% on Thursday.

Yahoo Finance UK
Chart: Yahoo Finance UK

It comes as Tim Martin, chairman of Wetherspoons, repeated his attacks on lockdown restrictions on Thursday.

A copy of the speech he was due to give at its AGM reads: “The situation for pubs is dire. All pubs in the UK (as at 16 December), apart from a handful in remote areas, are effectively shut.

“Less than half are able to open as restaurants, only serving alcoholic drinks with a meal - but that is not what pubs were designed for, and is not usually profitable."