A chain behind popular pubs in Inverness and Peterhead is to cut more than 2,000 jobs with a downturn in trade due to new coronavirus restrictions influencing the decision.
Martson’s has said around 2,150 of its UK pub workers who are currently on furlough support will be impacted, with further cost-saving measures to be introduced by the end of the year.
The firm has a foothold in both the north and north-east through the Three Witches in Inverness and the Harbour Spring Hotel in Peterhead.
Marston’s put the blame squarely on the recent nationwide measures to tackle the surge in coronavirus cases, which has seen curfews placed on hospitality venues and the closures of sites not serving food in high-risk areas such as Liverpool.
The UK Government imposed a 10pm curfew on pubs and hospitality venues across England from September 24, but since then Scotland has imposed a raft of further restrictions including closures in some areas and a 6pm curfew elsewhere.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced the new three-tier lockdown system, which has seen Liverpool subject to measures including the closure of bars, pubs which do not serve meals, gyms, betting shops and casinos.
Marston’s said it has 21 sites in Scotland, of which eight are currently closed, and 18 in the Tier 3 Liverpool region, although the majority of these serve food and are allowed to remain open.
Ralph Findlay, chief executive of Marston’s, said: “The additional restrictions which have been applied across the UK most recently present significant challenges to us and will make business more difficult for a period of time.
“I very much regret that the consequence of this is that the jobs of around 2,150 of our colleagues will be impacted, but it is an inevitable consequence of the limitations placed upon our business.
“We will be looking at our cost base further in the coming weeks.”
Marston’s claimed the new rules “undermine consumer confidence and create uncertainty”.
It said: “The introduction of these further restrictions and guidance affecting pubs is hugely disappointing in view of a lack of clear evidence tying pubs to the recent increase in infection levels, and our own data which suggests that pubs are effective in minimising risks.”
Details of the job cuts at Marston’s comes as its annual results showed pub sales tumbled 34% to £515 million in the year to October 3, impacted heavily by the lockdown earlier this year.
Since pubs reopened in July, like-for-like pub sales were 10% lower over the 13-week period, helped by the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out meal discount scheme in August.
Brewery sales were 22% lower over the year at £306 million, though sales in retailers and off-licences lifted 23% as pubs were forced to close.