Britain lost almost 6,000 licensed premises in 2020, according to fresh data charting the severe toll that Covid-19 is taking on the struggling hospitality sector.
Data tracking more than 100,000 venues with a licence to serve alcohol showed a tide of closures as the pandemic took hold, with casual dining venues and community pubs the worst affected.
Of the 10 largest city centres, Birmingham’s hospitality industry suffered the most, losing 8.5% of its bars, pubs and licensed restaurants or hotels.
Overall, the number of licensed premises in Great Britain declined by 5.1%, according to the market recovery monitor from the industry analysts CGA and AlixPartners, excluding Northern Ireland.
The number of closures, 9,930, was not significantly higher than in 2019, when 8,658 sites shut.
But they were not replaced by openings, as the pandemic depressed the number of pubs, bars and restaurants setting up shop from 6,487 and 3,955. Most of those that opened did so in the first quarter, before the pandemic, or in late summer, with new arrivals dwindling towards the end of the year.
WATCH: What is the Job Support Scheme and how has it changed?
Casual dining – typically affordable, more laid-back restaurants – was the worst-hit area of hospitality, with a 9.7% decline in the number of venues.
Community pubs, which often do not serve meals and had little to gain from the VAT cut on food or the chancellor’s eat out to help out scheme – shrunk by the second largest amount, declining by 5.1%.
Urban venues were hit worse than those in the countryside, with Birmingham losing 8.5% of licensed premises, followed by a 5.6% decline in Leeds, with London and Glasgow recording falls of 4.5%.
A difficult December, when most establishments lost some or all of their Christmas trade, is likely to continue the trend, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.
“We fear things could actually get much worse before they get better for our pubs and brewers,” said the BBPA chief executive, Emma McClarkin. “Given this latest evidence showing how the Covid crisis and lockdown is ripping pubs away from their communities for good, it is more important than ever that the government backs our local pubs and brewers.
“Pubs are the heart of our communities and have a vital role to play in the economic recovery. If they are to survive the current onslaught they face, they need backing from government.”
CGA’s hospitality business unit director, Karl Chessell, said: “Consumers are desperate to get back to eating and drinking out. While the easing of supply is not what we would wish to see, it does mean there will be more demand for those businesses still trading.
“There are better days to come but the sector will be in survival mode for some time yet.”
WATCH: What are the risks of investing in cryptocurrency?