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City Pub boss fears closures as he calls for European visa

·1-min read
 (City Pub Group)
(City Pub Group)

The boss of City Pub Group has warned venues across the capital face closure from spiralling costs and staff shortages as he called on the government to introduce temporary visas for European workers to support the hospitality industry.

City Pub Group chairman Clive Watson told the Standard: “We’ve had credit crunches, we’ve had Covid, but this inflationary period is undoubtedly the most challenging [and] there’ll be closures if staff aren’t available to do their duties.

“We’ve got a declining birth rate, so you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out we have an aging population. Why not put ideology to one side and say, ‘European workers are on our doorstep, give them a chance to stay.’”

Shares in City Pub Group, which runs the Bow Street Tavern in Covent Garden and the Cock and Bottle in Notting Hill, rose 10% this morning after the firm said sales had surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

Revenues in the first half of 2022 more than doubled on the previous year to top £26 million, while the firm turned a profit of £1.3 million. The company pocketed £17 million in April after selling six pubs in a bid to bring down debt.

“Thank God the top line is holding up but the cost side is very challenging,” Watson said.

The former PwC accountant who sold his previous pub venture, the Capital Pub Company to Greene King for £93 million, hinted he was ready to snap up pubs that faced closure.

“We’re fortunate, we’re a big company and we’ve got a strong balance sheet…if the market is distressed, that presents opportunities.”