UK pub chain Shepherd Neame this morning said trading has been “encouraging” since its beer gardens reopened last week.
The firm, which is Britain’s oldest brewer, said more than 200 pubs reopened when restrictions on outdoor trading were lifted on 12 April.
The rest of its 316 sites across south east England will reopen on 17 May.
Trading so far has been “most encouraging”, said Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame.
“We are delighted and excited to have opened over 200 pub gardens on 12 April and look forward to reopening the rest of our pubs in May with increasing confidence,”he said,
“There is significant pent up demand in the economy and the desire to go out for a drink or a meal is as strong as ever. Initial trade has been most encouraging.”
The company has launched an investment programme to improve its gardens and outdoor spaces, and to maintain “high standards of signage and decoration”.
In the 26 weeks ended 26 December Shepherd Neame reported mixed levels of trading due to varying coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
The pub chain said it enjoyed strong trading during the summer months, when hospitality venues reopened following the initial Covid lockdown.
However this was followed by “ever changing levels of restriction” and enforced closure again from November, resulting in a “significant impact” on the financial results.
Turnover in the half year period was £55.3m, down from £79m the previous year. Shepherd Neame reported a loss before tax of £7.2m, compared to £5.4m profit the year before.
“There are still many challenges to face and a long road to full recovery, but the balance sheet remains strong and we have ample liquidity,” Neame added.
“The relationship with our licensees is excellent and our reputation for beer and pubs is strong. We look forward with confidence to returning Shepherd Neame back to growth.”