The blow to public confidence from Omicron has already led the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) to predict a minimum of a 30 percent drop off over Christmas – costing the trade at least £300m. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin told Express.co.uk: “Footfall has fallen off a cliff edge and cancellations are through the roof.” The uncertainty over whether increased restrictions may also come in is leaving brewers in a quandary over how much, and what types of beer, to brew – and pubs unclear on how much to stock up. One BBPA member has confirmed they are not brewing for the first time in 10 years.
Suffolk brewer Adnams have already cut down on some products for Christmas and faces a crunch decision at the end of this week on how much beer to produce for the New Year’s Eve weekend.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams, said they were “between a rock and a hard place” and having to judge trading by the hour.
Mr Wood explained they also needed to decide what type of beer to produce.
Cask beer sold in pubs is a live product meaning once opened it will quickly deteriorate.
Any sudden announcement of restrictions would then mean any cask beer produced would go to waste.
It estimates restrictions now could hit revenues by as much as 40-50 percent.
However, even without restrictions, loss of consumer confidence over Omicron has created what Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin described as “a lockdown by stealth”.
With customer numbers falling, The British Beer and Pub Association now predict pubs will sell 37 million fewer pints this Christmas.
Mr Wood explained this would prove a major blow with pubs now entering the fortnight when they make the money needed to see them through to spring, with January and February being traditionally quiet periods.
“The Government needs to restore confidence” he said, adding: “The messaging has not been strong.”
Ms McClarkin said it was “worrying to hear nothing from Government on support”.
The BBPA have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking for furlough and grant provisions for pubs as well as VAT and Business Rates support.
Mr Wood agreed, saying the Treasury needed to announce measures which would give business “a sense of support” such as a reduction in VAT.