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Over 7,000 licensed premises still in limbo following ‘freedom day’ Published Date: 16/08/2021

More than 7,000 licensed premises have not yet returned after last month’s ‘freedom day’, the latest Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and AlixPartners reveals.

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While it is expected that some are still planning their restart or are waiting for trading conditions to improve—especially in Scotland and Wales, where restrictions were lifted later than in England—others are unlikely to open again.

According to the Market Recovery Monitor just under 5,000 of Britain’s licensed premises opened their doors again in July to bring the sector to more than nine-tenths of its capacity. The wave of reopenings was partly triggered by ‘freedom day’ in England on 19 July, which allowed many venues, especially nightclubs and late-night bars, to trade for the first time since March 2020. Across Britain, 98,790 licensed premises were open by the end of July—93.0% of the total known sites.

The report highlights sharp contrasts between sectors of the hospitality market, including a stronger reopening for eating venues than drinking ones. 98.1% of food-led licensed premises were back trading by the end of July, compared to 91.4% of drink-led sites.

Managed restaurant, pub and bar groups are meanwhile returning at a faster pace than independents. Some 98.7% of managed sites are now open—significantly higher than the 89.9% of independently-run venues.

The new Market Recovery Monitor also provides a review of hospitality’s site numbers over the course of the pandemic. Britain’s total licensed premises plunged by more than 9,000 between Spring 2020 and 2021—8.1% of the pre-COVID-19 total, and equivalent to one net closure every hour. However, total site numbers have edged up slightly in the last two months, indicating that confidence and investment in the sector are starting to return.