Covid: Sales at pubs, bars and restaurants slump as curfew bites

For 18 years Milk and Honey lived up to its name. The cocktail bar in Soho survived lockdown but, faced with another round of restrictions, has decided to call it a day. Pierre-Marie Bisson is the General Manager. Tomorrow he will join the growing ranks of the unemployed. “The curfew was the final straw. There was no way we could stay open while losing money,” Bisson told ITV News.

“There's four floors here. We went from 15 to six members of staff when we reopened after confinement so we were already massively under-staffed. You can’t then take away almost half the working hours of a place and expect it to survive.” Thanks to the government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, sales at pubs, bars and restaurants had almost recovered to pre-crisis levels by the end of August.

Data from industry experts CGA shows that when the 'Rule of Six'came into force on September 14 takings across 7,000 hospitality sites dropped by a fifth. Revenues have fallen again in the last week, following the announcement of the curfew and the guidance to work from home. Overall, sales are down by almost a third (31%) compared to last year - the equivalent of £340 million of lost income.

“That’s not sustainable,” says Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality. “At this rate, many businesses are going to be going out of business pretty soon. This curfew was brought in without justification and it is killing our sector.” Around the UK, fewer people are out and about, nowhere more so than in Newport. According to analysis by Huq Industries, footfall here has halved in the last week.

Different regions have different restrictions. Huq has studied the GPS data of more than half a million mobile phones and concluded that footfall In Oxford, Glasgow, Liverpool and Bristol footfall has also fallen by around one third. Until now, pubs, bars and restaurants in big city centres have seen the biggest fall in sales but the impact of the curfew and the guidance to work from home is being felt more widely. The sales data from CGA suggests that spending in suburban, commuter towns and rural areas is being equally affected. Last night, Waxy O’Connors in Central London was a shadow of its former self. Glendola Leisure, which runs the pub and has 16 others, has already let 282 people go. The owner, Alex Salussolia, says he’ll have to make a further 50 staff redundant unless the government offers more financial support in the next few weeks. “We need a specific, hospitality Job Retention Scheme, we need rates relief, we need rent relief,” he told ITV News. “If we don’t get those then literally it’s a time-bomb." The government is offering more help, targeted at businesses that it considers to be viable when this crisis finally ends. Those in hospitality are starting to worry that doesn’t include them.