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Confidence is slowly returning to the pubs sector, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

That’s not confidence as in “we’re going to make stonking amounts of money”; rather it is confidence that “there’s a fighting chance we won’t be out of business within three months”.

The ONS has released a report wittily entitled “Economies of ale: pubs in the time of COVID-19” in which it reports that last month saw the percentage of pub and bar owners who had “high confidence” in their establishment surviving the next three months rise to 24%, passing 20% for the first time since November 2020.

 

If you are a glass half empty sort of person, that means around three in four pub and bar owners are unsure whether they will last the summer.

Indeed, while it seems there are more optimists about in the trade now, the proportion of pessimists is also rising after it had shown signs of recovering from the dark days of November 2020.

The percentage of survey respondents expressing “low confidence” in their ability to survive the next three months rose to 19% in early May from 3% the month before; in November of last year, it was running at a very worrying 63%.

At its peak in the November 2020 lockdown, 91% of pub and bar staff were on furlough. This number has now decreased to 55% but it is still well above the 8-15% of staff on furlough that most British businesses currently have.

The ONS said that while the proportion of pub and bar staff has dropped since pubs were allowed to reopen, many of those that have reopened are operating with minimal staff.

Furthermore, as one survey respondent noted, “while the furlough scheme has been a means of survival, it’s pointless if they have no job to come back to”.

Missing out on the end of year festivities at the end of 2020 hit the sector hard, with more than 80% of pubs and bars recording by mid-December that their profits were less than half what they would normally have been at that time of the year, with that number soaring to 100% by late December.

 

A lot of the sector’s hopes are riding on a glorious summer and some gripping sporting drama, although you really are a glass-half-full person if you are relying on the British weather and the England (or Wales) football team doing well.