If you wanted an excuse to get out of dry January this year, do it for your local pub.
The end of 2021 saw most English pubs suffer huge losses, with takings falling as much as 60% in some venues compared with 2019 revenues, said UK Hospitality.
With December equal to three months’ takings in the sector, the effect has been devastating for Manchester’s pubs, which find themselves needing your support now more than ever.
For those who can’t bring themselves to commit to Dry January, this is the perfect out.
For others who really do want to cut back on their alcohol intake, that’s fine too, but hospitality bosses are asking people to consider going out for a meal or opting for a low or no alcohol alternative as a way of offering support.
UK Hospitality figures show that business had been nearing pre-pandemic levels before the arrival of the Omicron variant and a collapse in consumer confidence that lead to widespread cancellations and huge losses during a key period for hospitality.
It seems that most Brits chose to stay at home on both sides of Christmas, with sales down, on average, 60% on Christmas Day, 25% on Christmas Eve and 35% on Boxing Day – meaning many venues haven’t had the chance to build up the usual cash reserves that help see them through the ‘dry’ period at the start of the new year.
Kate Nicholls, the trade body’s chief executive, told The Guardian: “I think we could definitely dispense with it [dry January].”
Calling on people who might typically avoid alcohol at this year to try something else, such as a low (or no) alcohol drink or opting to visit a pub for a meal, she added: “This year, there are an awful lot more non-alcoholic options available that are really good quality, so there’s no excuse not to go out and support your local hospitality business.”
Manchester’s Night Time Economy Adviser Sacha Lord has also joined calls to support pubs this January, taking to Twitter to urge people: “With the decimation of Xmas cancellations… If there was ever a time to support your local independents… It’s now.”
Others have been even more outspoken about ditching Dry January altogether, such as Paul Foster, the chef-owner of Michelin restaurant Salt, who tweeted simply: “Sack off dry January and support your favourite pubs.”
In response to a person that replied “I believe it’s possible to go to a pub and not drink alcohol.” he agreed, but made the point that there is “very little money in that for pubs.”
Perhaps that is the case for soft drinks, but when it comes to low and no alcohol beers, cocktails, wines and spirits, the margin is actually pretty good.
Sales of low and no alcohol have been on the rise since 2019, especially amongst beer drinkers – who are generally of the opinion that the offerings have vastly improved in recent years. Due to the rise in popularity, consumers now generally accept that they will be paying a similar price for a low alchohol alternative, too.
Of course, going out and supporting pubs is all well and good, but other measures also need to be put in place – buying pints and pies isn’t going to save the sector all on its own.
There have been consistent calls from hospitality bosses for a renewed commitment from the government to keep VAT at 12.5%, as well as calls for enhanced rates relief for the sector.
And whilst bosses seem to mostly agree that restrictions should be kept to a minimum, they also add that further support would be needed if additional measures do come into force here in England.