Pubs will serve 5m fewer Christmas dinners and 39m fewer pints over the festive period, as the tiered system of coronavirus restrictions condemned the struggling industry to its quietest festive period on record.
Britain’s 47,200 pubs would usually have one of their most lucrative weeks of the year over Christmas, but 85% are now closed or unable to trade viably because they are outside tier 1, according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).
On Christmas Day, pubs would usually expect to sell more than 1m dinners but are now forecasting just 200,000, while the number of pints they pull is predicted to decrease from 10m to 630,000.
Over the entire Christmas Eve to Boxing Day stretch, beer orders are expected to drop from 41m pints to 2.6m or below, with dinners down from 6m to 830,000.
The BBPA said the final picture could be even worse, because its members made the predictions before a government U-turn on Christmas restrictions laid waste to the people’s festive plans.
“This Christmas will be the quietest year on record for our pubs,” said BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin.
“The current restrictions were devastating enough but now with the introduction of tier 4 and a tightening of the rules over Christmas, consumer confidence will be hit further, leading to cancellations and greater financial woes for pubs and brewers.”
Pubs have previously warned of a £650m drop in sales during December, which typically accounts for a quarter of annual profits owing to office parties, family lunches and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
The loss of so much trade has further fulled warnings that vast swathes of the UK’s pub industry, which employs 600,000 people, could be lost for good.
Stosie Madi, whose pub in rural Lancashire, the Parkers Arms, is in tier 3, said changing messages from the government had made it impossible to plan, while the financial support on offer for affected businesses is insufficient.
“It’s a horrible feeling,” she said. “My pub is all decorated and ready to go. He [Boris Johnson] could have shut down in September or October and tried to get a handle on it, maybe we would have been able to trade, but he didn’t. We’ve not been able to plan for it.
“We understand things have to be done for the health of people but why are we always battered by the government? People have been allowed to go out shopping 24/7 and we haven’t been able to open for Christmas trade.”
Madi said the pub had just £500 of financial support from the local council per week to help pay all of its bills.
“You’ve closed us down, taken our trade away, decimated our finances and ability to plan, so at least remunerate us. It’s so indecent. How long we can keep going and adapting I don’t know. We need help.”
The outlook became even more grim after millions more people were told late on Wednesday they would be plunged into tier 4 from Boxing Day.
The BBPA chief executive, Emma McClarkin, said: “We desperately need the Prime Minister to step up to the plate and commit to an enhanced package of measure for pubs and brewers.
“If the government acts now they can still secure pubs and jobs by giving locals in England the sort of support those in Wales and Scotland are getting. Without this the outlook is very bleak indeed.”