Greene King cuts 800 jobs as pub curfew hits trade
Pub giant Greene King is cutting 800 jobs after deciding that tighter lockdown restrictions mean some pubs will have to close.
It said 79 sites will stay closed for the time being, with about one third of these expected to be shut permanently.
Coronavirus restrictions, such as the 10pm curfew, and the winding down of the furlough scheme was a “challenge” to trading, Green King said.
It urged the government to do more for the struggling hospitality sector. Scotland’s hospitality sector received a jolt on Wednesday when its government said it would close all pubs and restaurants across central Scotland under new measures aimed at tackling a surge in coronavirus cases in the region.
The 10pm closing time remains in place in England and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been challenged to publish the scientific evidence behind that.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the public “deserved to know” the basis for the restriction and if it could not be justified the rule must be reviewed. Tory MPs opposed to the move may rebel in the Commons vote, which is scheduled for next week. An industry body warned on Tuesday that half a million hospitality jobs could go by the end of the year.
A spokeswoman for Greene King said: “The continued tightening of the trading restrictions for pubs, which may last another six months, along with the changes to government support was always going to make it a challenge to reopen some of our pubs.
“Therefore, we have made the difficult decision not to reopen 79 sites, including the 11 Loch Fyne restaurants we announced last week.
“Around one-third will be closed permanently and we hope to be able to reopen the others in the future.”
She added: “We are working hard with our teams to try and find them a role in another of our pubs wherever possible.”
Suffolk-based Greene King, which was bought by a Hong-Kong real estate giant last year, is one of the UK’s biggest hospitality firms, with 3,100 pubs, restaurants and hotels across the UK.
The hospitality sector has been struggling with government restrictions designed to slow the spread of coronavirus, including 10pm closing time for pubs, social distancing measures, and mandatory table service for food in licensed premises.
Under the government’s furlough scheme, workers put on leave have been able to get 80% of their pay, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
But that scheme has been winding down and at the end of October will be replaced by the Job Support Scheme – a less generous wage support scheme.
There are fears this will trigger large scale job cuts among businesses struggling to cover their costs.
The company said it had a strong track record of redeploying people across its business, and had already identified a number of other opportunities for Loch Fyne employees from the 11 restaurants it said it would be closing last week.
Last week, the boss of rival Fuller’s said that about a tenth of its almost-5,000 employees could face redundancy without further state support.
The bosses of London-focused groups Young’s and City Pub Group also warned that they might have to get rid of hundreds of roles when furlough ends later this month.