UK beer sales have fallen by 2.1bn pints in the year since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to industry figures.
The lost sales would translate to £8.2bn in trade by value compared to the same period a year before, according to the estimates from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), a lobby group representing pubs and brewers.
Pubs have suffered a year of disruption during the pandemic, and the industry is now pinning its hopes on a strong rebound in trade this spring and summer. Pub beer gardens in England will be allowed to reopen from 12 April at the earliest, while indoor areas will be allowed to open from 17.
Separate analysis by CGA, a consultancy, has shown that as many as 2,000 pubs have been lost since the pandemic began.
Emma McClarkin, the BBPA’s chief executive, said: “Our sector has been devastated by Covid-19 and the lockdowns. It has been a year to forget for the great British pub.
“Sadly, we still haven’t seen the full extent of the damage yet and won’t do for some time until things really do go back to normal.
“Pubs have faced some of the strictest restrictions of any UK industry during the pandemic, including months of mandatory closures, curfews and a requirement that drinkers be served a “substantial meal”.
Publicans have been given financial support, including grants in March 2020 and in the autumn, and the promise of £400m of “restart grants” in England of up to £18,000 as the latest lockdowns eases. Pubs in the UK’s other countries have also received grant support set by devolved administrations.
However, the industry is concerned that “wet-led” pubs, which earn most of their revenues from drinkers rather than meals, will still struggle when government support is reduced and delayed bills such as rent payments are due. The BBPA said the government should extend a 5% reduced rate of VAT (down from 20% normally) to alcoholic drinks, including beer and spirits.
Pubs that serve food gained in the budget from a £5bn VAT cut targeted at hospitality, but it only applied to food, soft drinks and accommodation. Alcohol duty was also frozen.
“Local wet-led pubs have been amongst the worst affected by the virus so it’s important the government goes that little bit further for them,” McClarkin said.