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Over a third of UK pubs and restaurants cut hours to save on energy bills

FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London

By Muvija M

LONDON (Reuters) - More than a third of British pubs and restaurants have shortened their trading hours over the last three months to keep a lid on soaring energy costs, the country's statistics office said.

Some 6% of pubs, cafes and restaurants had decided to close an extra two days a week, 7% were open one day less, while 21% had reduced opening hours but not the number of days they were open, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Monday.

Reduced opening times were far more common in the hospitality sector than in other parts of the British economy, where just 7% of businesses reported this.

Many hospitality businesses also reported reduced demand as their patrons too had been hit by surging energy bills since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The government announced a temporary energy subsidies for businesses in September, but the ONS said this led to little change in the proportion of hospitality businesses saying energy bills were their top worry.

Last month trade body UKHospitality said over a third of the sector risked going bust early next year due to the rising cost of energy and other bills, as well as falling consumer spending. Staffing was a challenge too, it added.

However, more food and drink businesses plan to stay open in November, according to the ONS survey which showed 4% of the companies were planning to reduce their opening hours by one day a week, versus 7% which did so in the past three months.

The run-up to Christmas is a major earner for almost all British hospitality businesses, and this year many pubs will be hoping to get a boost from people watching the soccer World Cup in Qatar.

Wetherspoon, which operates almost 900 pubs in Britain, said last week it was "cautiously optimistic" about its prospects despite a recent slowdown.

(Reporting by Muvija M; editing by David Milliken)