One of Britain’s biggest pub operators is preparing to close dozens of venues and cut hundreds of jobs following a slump in trade exacerbated by the government’s 10pm hospitality industry curfew.
It is understood that Greene King have started a consultation with 800 employees about a redundancy process.
Sources close to the company, which has an estate of almost 1,700 managed pubs and 1,000 tenanted venues across Britain, said it would seek to redeploy affected staff wherever possible despite the continuing COVID-19 crisis.
In total, 79 of Greene King’s pubs and restaurants will close, with roughly one-third of the closures expected to be permanent.
The redundancies represent a small fraction of Greene King’s 38,000-strong workforce but underline the anxiety of employers as the government’s furlough scheme nears its end.
The latest round of cuts across the hospitality sector underline the enormous financial toll being taken on an industry that is among Britain’s largest employers.
Some of the country’s best-known restaurant chains have already been forced into insolvency processes since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, while the industry association UK Hospitality has forecast that hundreds of thousands of jobs will disappear before Christmas without additional government support.
Greene King’s venue closures include 11 Loch Fyne restaurants signalled several days ago, while other pub groups including Young’s and Fullers are also in the process of cutting substantial numbers of jobs.
In a recent statement, Nick Mackenzie, Greene King’s chief executive, said: “The industry is still dealing with the crippling aftereffects of the nationwide lockdown and the cumulative effect of the new restrictions, combined with the singling out of pubs, mean the measures announced by the chancellor don’t go far enough, especially for drink-led city centre pubs.
“With Public Health England figures showing only 5% of all outbreaks are linked to hospitality, it feels like pubs are being unfairly targeted when there is little evidence that they enable the spread of Covid-19.”
A Greene King spokesman declined to comment on the redundancy consultation.
The news comes as England’s 10pm pub and restaurant curfew could be shifted back an hour and supermarkets ordered to stop selling alcohol after 11pm under plans being considered by ministers.
Business Matters understands that government insiders have been impressed by Northern Ireland’s own regulations on night-time hospitality, where there have been few incidents of public overcrowding or house parties after closing time.