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Pubs hope for good April weather in anticipation of pent-up demand

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Pubs across the country are keeping fingers and toes crossed for good weather when restrictions lift in a couple of weeks.

On April 12, hospitality venues in England will reopen and will be allowed to serve people outdoor with no curfew or substantial meals required with drinks as was required last year.

READ: Fullers plans fundraising to boost balance sheet ahead of reopening

In Scotland, pubs and restaurants are earmarked to reopen on April 26 for outdoor dining and drinking, but they will have to close at 10pm.

Wales and Northern Ireland have not yet decided when their hospitality venues can reopen their doors.

“We had four months to prepare so we are more than ready,” City Pub Group PLC’s (LON:CPC) chairman Clive Watson told Proactive.

“We are booking spaces that are covered, so that means that anyone who has booked, whatever the weather, will be covered. Then the other space is for other people who come on the day.”

Watson said that pubs in more residential areas and coastal locations, such as Brighton and Norwich, are nearly or fully booked up, but cities like Cambridge, which tend to rely on tourists and students, are not getting the same amount of bookings.

Meanwhile, Mitchells & Butlers PLC (LON:MAB) will reopen around 270 outlets in England on April 12, with another 250 potentially resuming operations later in the month if it doesn’t rain.

“These plans assume we will have normal April weather – needless to say we have all fingers crossed for a spell of fine weather, in which case we’d look to reopen even more of our businesses, something we’d love to do,” a spokesperson told Proactive.

The publican also looks to reopen 45 venues in Scotland on April 26, where JD Wetherspoon PLC (LON:JDW) is planning to resume trading in around 60 pubs, both inside and outside.

In England, the FTSE 250 group will restart operations at 400 venues in England with outdoor space, although it’s not taking bookings.

It is also planning to invest £145mln expanding and upgrading its pub estate through a strategy it said will create 2,000 new jobs.

The pipeline consists of 75 projects, 18 of which are new pubs while 57 are “significant extensions and upgrades” to its current chain of 871 locations.

Competitor Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC (LON:FSTA) is taking a phased approach to reopening, with 82 sites to open initially with the remainder of its managed pubs and hotels to be largely trading by May 17. It said around 70% of its tenanted inns are expected to open on April 12.

Fullers has issued a cash call for £53.6mln through a share placing to bolster its balance sheet to catch the pent-up demand.

It wants to ensure it is “as well-positioned as possible to reopen strongly once trading restrictions are lifted”, adding that the funds will also be used to help it return to pre-pandemic debt levels and increase its resilience in case of any delays or changes to the UK’s lockdown easing roadmap.

The bigger picture

Economists at Capital Economics expect that household consumption will go from being the weakest sector of the economy to the strongest, as spending in pubs, restaurants and hotels surges.

In terms of infections, analysts at Liberum reckon the UK is on track to reopen on the dates set by the government’s roadmap even though some people have been worried by rising cases in Europe that could prompt a new wave in the UK.

This is because the percentage of COVID-19 cases “is still declining at a rather nice rate despite the opening of schools” but the actual number won’t go down much because we are testing much more.

“Whilst we’re not sure about nightclubs in June, beer gardens in a couple of weeks and cinemas in May seem very much on the cards,” the broker commented.

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