Hospitality bosses have urged consumers not to abandon pubs over Dry January as venues grapple with a ‘chasm of debt’ caused by Covid restrictions and a stagnant Christmas.

The coming weeks could be ‘the nail in the coffin’ for thousands of pubs unless customers keep visiting, after the festive season saw venues lose money, business leaders have said.

Over December, which is usually one of the busiest months for hospitality, sales fell by as much as 60 per cent for some pubs, according to leading trade body UKHospitality.

Revellers in England partied into the early hours at pubs, bars and clubs that had suffered a tumultuous year of restrictions early on and then dwindling customer numbers over fears for the Omicron variant of Covid.

Hospitality bosses have urged consumers not to abandon pubs over Dry January as venues grapple with a 'chasm of debt' caused by Covid restrictions and a stagnant Christmas. Pictured: Pedestrians pass an empty pub in London

Hospitality bosses have urged consumers not to abandon pubs over Dry January as venues grapple with a 'chasm of debt' caused by Covid restrictions and a stagnant Christmas. Pictured: Pedestrians pass an empty pub in London

Hospitality bosses have urged consumers not to abandon pubs over Dry January as venues grapple with a ‘chasm of debt’ caused by Covid restrictions and a stagnant Christmas. Pictured: Pedestrians pass an empty pub in London

Revellers in England partied into the early hours at pubs, bars and clubs that had suffered a tumultuous year of restrictions early on and then dwindling customer numbers over fears for the Omicron variant of Covid. Pictured: New Year's Eve celebrations in Liverpool.

Revellers in England partied into the early hours at pubs, bars and clubs that had suffered a tumultuous year of restrictions early on and then dwindling customer numbers over fears for the Omicron variant of Covid. Pictured: New Year's Eve celebrations in Liverpool.

Revellers in England partied into the early hours at pubs, bars and clubs that had suffered a tumultuous year of restrictions early on and then dwindling customer numbers over fears for the Omicron variant of Covid. Pictured: New Year’s Eve celebrations in Liverpool.

Unlike in Wales and Scotland, people in England flocked to nightclubs to see in the New Year after the government decided against further restrictions. Pictured: Revellers at Players Bar in Birmingham

Unlike in Wales and Scotland, people in England flocked to nightclubs to see in the New Year after the government decided against further restrictions. Pictured: Revellers at Players Bar in Birmingham

Unlike in Wales and Scotland, people in England flocked to nightclubs to see in the New Year after the government decided against further restrictions. Pictured: Revellers at Players Bar in Birmingham

But venues in Wales and Scotland did not even get a New Year’s boost after the Labour and SNP government laid down tough restrictions on gatherings and forced clubs to close.

And now one in seven UK adults are planning to take part in Dry January in 2022, which sees people abstain from drinking for the first month of the year, according to a poll by Alcohol Change UK, the charity promoting the campaign. 

But pub owners are urging punters to still visit their local – even if they don’t order a pint.

Tom Bott, founder of Signature Brew, a North London brewery, encouraged customers to continue supporting local venues by ordering food and non-alcoholic drink even if they are abstaining.

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young's, said venues were already committed to offering a 'welcoming' environment for non-drinkers during Dry January and more widely

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young's, said venues were already committed to offering a 'welcoming' environment for non-drinkers during Dry January and more widely

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young’s, said venues were already committed to offering a ‘welcoming’ environment for non-drinkers during Dry January and more widely

Tom Bott, founder of Signature Brew, a North London brewery, encouraged customers to continue supporting local venues by ordering food and non-alcoholic drink even if they are abstaining

Tom Bott, founder of Signature Brew, a North London brewery, encouraged customers to continue supporting local venues by ordering food and non-alcoholic drink even if they are abstaining

Tom Bott, founder of Signature Brew, a North London brewery, encouraged customers to continue supporting local venues by ordering food and non-alcoholic drink even if they are abstaining

Hospitality sector bosses have warned a slump in sales during Dry January could be 'the nail in the coffin' for the industry after Omicron hit trading over Christmas and New Year. Pictured: Aftermath of celebrations in Piccadilly Circus

Hospitality sector bosses have warned a slump in sales during Dry January could be 'the nail in the coffin' for the industry after Omicron hit trading over Christmas and New Year. Pictured: Aftermath of celebrations in Piccadilly Circus

Hospitality sector bosses have warned a slump in sales during Dry January could be ‘the nail in the coffin’ for the industry after Omicron hit trading over Christmas and New Year. Pictured: Aftermath of celebrations in Piccadilly Circus

Mr Bott said the aim of Dry January was commendable but the timing compounds the impact of an already slow month for hospitality.

‘It does sort of feel like it doubles down on the pub industry’s worst month by also having a huge wave of people who don’t drink,’ he said.

‘For those who are doing Dry January, and I can completely see why a lot of people do, I would still urge them to meet up with their friends and go out to their local pub, restaurant, music venue, wherever else because those venues desperately need your support, whether you’re drinking an alcoholic beverage or not.’

Reduced footfall combined with a lack of Government support and unclear guidance on Covid hospitality rules for the coming months has exacerbated the problem, he added.

Alcohol Change UK said pubs should focus on making non-drinkers feel ‘included’ by offering high-quality alcohol-free options behind the bar.

Venues in Wales and Scotland did not even get a New Year's boost after the Labour and SNP government laid down tough restrictions on gatherings and forced clubs to close. Pictured: The closed Queens Vault pub in Cardiff

Venues in Wales and Scotland did not even get a New Year's boost after the Labour and SNP government laid down tough restrictions on gatherings and forced clubs to close. Pictured: The closed Queens Vault pub in Cardiff

Venues in Wales and Scotland did not even get a New Year’s boost after the Labour and SNP government laid down tough restrictions on gatherings and forced clubs to close. Pictured: The closed Queens Vault pub in Cardiff

Princes Street is seen deserted on December 31, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland

Princes Street is seen deserted on December 31, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland

Princes Street is seen deserted on December 31, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland

‘If they think their customers are not going to come in when they’re having a month off booze, they need to question why,’ Lucy Holmes, director of policy research at the charity, said.

‘If you can get people through the door with a really good alcohol-free beer, why not? Why not make a virtue out of it?’

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young’s, said venues were already committed to offering a ‘welcoming’ environment for non-drinkers during Dry January and more widely.

People abstaining from drink can still order food and non-alcoholic beverages and enjoy a friendly atmosphere, he said.

Mr Dardis said large chains like his own would be able to survive a slowdown in January but expressed ‘sincere concern’ for smaller businesses.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured, said Britons will have to get used to living with Covid-19

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured, said Britons will have to get used to living with Covid-19

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured, said Britons will have to get used to living with Covid-19

‘I do see thousands and thousands of business for whom this (period) is probably the final nail in the coffin. January and February will be brutal for thousands of businesses across the land,’ Mr Dardis said.

Tony Sophoclides, strategic affairs director at UKHospitality, said businesses had tried to build cash reserves to bolster them over the coming month but had instead been left ‘stricken’ by the period of stagnation.

‘The role of Dry January is nothing new and we knew that was coming which is why it was so disappointing not being able to capitalise on December,’ he said.

‘We would say go out and support your local pub because if you want to keep them going, so many are on the edge of the precipice right now.

‘The chasm of debt that most of them are facing is going to take a long time to get out of.’ 

Downing Street has not ruled out the possibility of new restrictions in England, although Health Secretary Sajid Javid described prospect as a ‘last resort’.

While coronavirus cases are continuing to rise due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant, official figures showed yesterday that in parts of Britain up to four in 10 hospital patients with Covid were actually there to receive treatment for something else. The figure nationally is one in three.

Mr Javid said the numbers in intensive care units remained stable, meaning ‘we have welcomed in 2022 with some of the least restrictive measures in Europe’.

Mr Javid added: ‘Curbs on our freedom must be an absolute last resort and the British people rightly expect us to do everything in our power to avert them.

Boris Johnson, unlike the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, decided against imposing additional restrictions in England, despite record-breaking Covid infections fuelled by the Omicron variant.

It led to thousands crossing the border from Wales and Scotland to party into 2022 in England, a move welcomed by English hospitality chiefs.

Although there were rumours Boris Johnson may impose restrictions to curb the spread of the virus as early as next week, Whitehall sources said no new measures are expected when Plan B is reviewed next week.

The Prime Minister will most likely ‘maintain the status quo’ of wearing masks indoors, working from home if possible and using vaccine passports where necessary, Whitehall sources told the Sun .

It came after Mr Johnson warned this week that New Year’s celebrations should be ‘cautious and sensible’.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Daily Mail

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