Pub company Marston’s is calling for Government support to be extended as venues across the UK remain closed until ‘March at the earliest.’
Chief executive Ralph Findlay says extending the business rates holiday beyond its current end date in April and a VAT cut for the rest of this year is the ‘minimum requirement’ needed to support the recovery of hospitality businesses which have been forced to shut their doors as a result of another lockdown.
The call comes after a recent trading update revealed Marston’s – whose headquarters is in Wolverhampton – recorded revenue of £54 million for the 13 weeks to January 2, 2021.
The company – which has around 1,400 pubs across the UK – said that it is losing between £3m and £4m a week during lockdown and that 97 per cent of its staff are currently furloughed.
A statement to the London Stock Exchange said: “Following the imposition of lockdowns across the UK in recent days, all our pubs are closed. We do not have certainty about the timing of reopening, but in view of comments from the Prime Minister about the potential for lifting restrictions as the vaccination programme progresses we anticipate that pubs will be closed for trading until March at the earliest, and expect some of the previous restrictions to remain on reopening.
“Despite this disruption, we remain focused on the strategic development of the business.”
The statement added: “As we outlined in our preliminary results in December, when restrictions are lifted we expect consumer demand to be strong and that our pub estate, which is predominately located in suburban locations, will be well positioned.”
In 2020, Marston’s announced a tie up with the UK arm of Danish drinks company Carlsberg to create a new brewing business.
The deal saw the company received a 40 per cent stake in the Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company and £273m which was used to reduce company debt.
And in December, Marston’s revealed it was taking over the running of 156 SA Brain & Co pubs in a move which saved 1,300 jobs.
The company said the transaction – which is due to be completed in February – demonstrates its commitment to its growing pub business and its confidence in the medium-term outlook for the UK pub sector.
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Mr Findlay said: “The pub sector has been closed for much of the last nine months and remains in a very difficult position. Regrettably there have been casualties across the sector and it is vital that the Government reviews urgently the opportunity to continue to support pubs as we reopen the economy in the coming weeks.
“Pubs are viable businesses which are part of the social fabric of Britain and which make a major contribution to the economy and the communities in which they serve. It is vital that they not only survive the short-term crisis but are supported in order to recover and flourish. Extending the business rates holiday and VAT cut for the rest of this year is a minimum requirement.”
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He added: “Despite these challenges, Marston’s has a significantly strengthened balance sheet following the creation of the joint venture with Carlsberg and the financial headroom to weather the extended period of current trading restrictions.
“With the roll-out of the vaccine programme now underway nationwide, we remain well positioned to rebuild trading momentum once restrictions are lifted, as well as to leverage potential market opportunities open to us. We have a clear strategy in place which leaves us confident for the future of our business over the medium term.”