Greene King is cutting up to 800 jobs and closing 79 pubs and restaurants, blaming the move on the 10pm curfew and the end of the government’s furlough scheme.
Greene King, one of Britain’s biggest pub operators, with more than 1,700 pubs and 38,000 staff, said about a third of the outlets will close permanently, with the rest “mothballed” until they can reopen.
“The continued tightening of the trading restrictions for pubs, which may last another six months, along with the changes to government support was always going to make it a challenge to reopen some of our pubs,” a spokesman said.
“Therefore, we have made the difficult decision not to reopen 79 sites, including the 11 Loch Fyne restaurants we announced last week. Around a third will be closed permanently and we hope to be able to reopen the others in the future. We are working hard with our teams to try and find them a role in another of our pubs wherever possible.”
Greene King’s announcement comes a day after Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality – the trade group for the pub, bar and restaurant industries – warned of a surge in redundancies caused by the 10pm curfew on pubs, restaurants and bars in England, Wales and Scotland, the end of the furlough scheme and local lockdowns.
Speaking to a committee of MPs on Tuesday, Nicholls said industry estimates of about 560,000 job losses, among 900,000 furloughed workers, needed to be drastically revised upwards because of the impact of the tighter restrictions.
“We anticipate that the number will be far higher now as a result of the local restrictions, the national constraints on events, working from home, the curfew, etc,” she said.
Nicholls added that significant job losses had been averted by the furlough programme, which at its peak covered 80% of the wages of temporarily laid-off workers. However, the scheme ends on 31 October.
By the end of the first week in which the 10pm curfew was introduced, sales at pubs, bars and restaurants plunged by 37% year on year. In London and Scotland, where many small city centre pubs have remained closed throughout the pandemic, sales fell 47% and 44% year on year respectively.
The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has unveiled a successor to the furlough programme, called the job support scheme, which is designed to bring back employees on a part-time basis, with the employer paying 55% of the workers’ wages.
Greene King said the government needed to do more to support the embattled hospitality industry through what was expected to be a tough winter.
“We urgently need the government to step in and provide tailored support to help the sector get through to the spring and prevent further pub closures and job losses,” a spokesman said.
Greene King also has 1,000 tenanted pubs – sites it rents out. These are not part of the company’s cuts and closures programme.
Last month, Labour called on the government to show more flexibility, arguing that the furlough scheme should be extended for the “hardest hit sectors”.
Greene King is the latest pub operator to announce cuts as the toll on the hospitality industry continues to mount.
Last week, Young’s, which operates about 270 pubs in the south of England, confirmed about 500 of its 4,200 staff would bee made redundant by the end of October. And Fuller’s, the FTSE-100 listed pub group, said at least 500 jobs were at risk. Fuller’s cuts, which represent about 10 per cent of its workforce, will predominantly affect its sites in central London.