More than 7,500 of Britain’s Licensed Premises Lost in the Year of COVID

Figures from the forthcoming edition of the Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners reveals intensifying closures in 2021 and a devastating toll on independents

Britain has 7,592 fewer licensed premises than it did before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, according to a new report to be published next week by analysts CGA and advisory firm AlixPartners.

The March edition of the Market Recovery Monitor, published as the UK marks 12 months since its first lockdown, sets out the full devastating impact of the pandemic and lockdowns on hospitality, including a rapid acceleration in closures since the start of 2021. Britain’s total licensed premises fell by 2,713 over January and February—equivalent to 46 closures a day, or one every 31 minutes. In total, Britain had 107,516 sites at the end of February 2021, down by 7,592 or 6.6% from 115,108 in March 2020.

The Market Recovery Monitor reveals how independent businesses have borne the brunt of closures. A total of 5,112 have been lost since March 2020, including 1,971 in January and February alone. This reflects the vulnerability of small and family-run businesses by comparison to well-invested restaurant and pub groups, which have recorded 1,229 closures—fewer than a quarter of the independent sector’s number.

Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “While hospitality finally has a roadmap out of lockdown, these figures show that dozens more businesses are being pushed to collapse every day. Losing Christmas sales had a shattering impact on many entrepreneurial restaurants, pubs and bars, who add so much colour to our high streets and enrich communities up and down Britain. Hospitality is a vibrant sector that can help to kickstart the UK’s economic recovery this summer, but in the meantime support is desperately needed to avoid thousands more business failures.”

Graeme Smith, AlixPartners’ managing director, said: “These figures show what a truly devastating 12 months it has been for the hospitality sector. All segments of the market have been impacted, but the dynamic independent sector has borne the brunt of closures. The pandemic has reshaped the market for many years to come and unfortunately there are likely to be further casualties before businesses are permitted to trade without restrictions this summer. With many businesses unable to trade before 17 May, further support is needed for the industry, which is creaking at the seams.”