Friday 8 January 2021 10:38 am

Marston's boss calls for extra support as pub chain expects sites to be closed until March

The boss of pub chain Marston’s this morning urged the government for additional support for hospitality firms, as the company revealed it expects its sites to be closed until at least March due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The company, which has been forced to close all of its pubs due to the third nationwide lockdown, said it does “not have certainty about the timing of reopening” and called on the government to extend the business rates holiday and VAT cut for hospitality firms.

Read more: Brains pubs saved as Marston’s sign deal to operate Welsh outlets

Marson’s chief executive Ralph Findlay said extending the support schemes to the end of the year is a “minimum requirement”.

It is “vital that the government reviews urgently the opportunity to continue to support pubs as we reopen the economy in the coming weeks”, Findlay added.

“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,” Marston’s said as it updated the market on its first quarter trading performance.

In an update this morning the pub chain said revenue reached £54m in the quarter ended 2 January after trading was “materially disrupted” due to Covid-19 restrictions in England, Scotland and Wales.

However, the London-listed firm said it remained “focused on the strategic development of the business” and is “confident” in its ability to navigate the current crisis. 

“When restrictions are lifted we expect consumer demand to be strong and that our pub estate, which is predominantly located in suburban locations, will be well positioned,” it said.

Read more: Quarter of UK pubs feared closing for good even before new lockdown

Marston’s, which has estimated that weekly cash burn throughout lockdown will be between £3m and £4m, has furloughed 97 per cent of staff and is benefiting from the government’s business rates holiday.

It also announced plans to apply for additional grants that were announced by the government earlier this week. 

Marston’s completed a joint venture with Carlsberg in October last year, using the £233m of initial proceeds to pay down debt.