Pubs and restaurants in plea for urgent government action over energy bills

Scores of pubs and restaurants are closing every month across the UK
Gary McDonald Business Editor

HOSPITALITY Ulster is among a number of industry bodies representing the UK's pubs, bars and restaurants sector which are demanding the government in London to urgently act on crippling energy bills.

It comes as average bills have surged 81 per cent over the past year as firms make further pleas to the Government for support.

The lobby groups have revealed that less than a third of hospitality businesses are optimistic about their future after swallowing mammoth energy price increases, as well as more expensive food and wage bills.

Data collected by NielsenIQ on behalf of the British Institute of Innkeeping, UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association and Hospitality Ulster revealed the extent of the current turmoil facing the industry.

The research showed that just over a quarter (29 per cent) of hospitality businesses feel optimistic about the next 12 months.

Business owners said they are particularly concerned about energy costs, with 86 per cent of firms saying it was a worry.

It comes around a year since energy bills rocketed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine sparked a sharp uptick in gas prices.

Scores of pubs and disappearing every month across the UK, and the trade bodies have joined forces to warn that more venues will shut for good if cost pressures do not ease soon.

In a joint statement, the organisations said: "The energy crisis has been pushing pubs, bars and restaurants to breaking point for a year now.

"The Energy Bill Relief Scheme provided a short respite but with that falling away last month businesses are back to paying high costs, with no end in sight for the thousands locked into contracts who will be obligated to pay extortionate rates well into next year.

"Put simply, this data is extremely worrying for thousands of otherwise viable hospitality businesses.

"No profits means nothing to invest back into businesses, no cash reserves means nothing to fall back on, and businesses being forced to close means important, irreplaceable assets being lost from local communities and economies across the country forever.

"The Government must recognise this crisis isn't just crippling businesses now.

"Left unresolved it will have a lasting wider impact long into the future, impacting local employment, supply chains and removing essential community hubs from villages, towns and cities across the whole of the UK."

Last week Hospitality Ulster joined with Manufacturing NI and Retail NI under the umbrella of Trade NI to launch a blueprint for economic growth and prosperity in the north over the next 10 years and beyond.

But the report, launched at Westminster, paid only a passing nod to rising energy prices, focusing more on slashing VAT to make the region more accessible and attractive for both commerce and tourism.

It also identified key strengths of the north's economy and how these can be leveraged to deliver greater economic growth and prosperity in future decades for local communities and businesses.

Writing in today's Business Insight, Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill says: "Although inflation has fallen, food prices continue to soar. The sector is being taxed out of existence, businesses continue to grapple with supply chain disruptions and a labour shortage crisis, and no Executive means no direction.

"Businesses are hanging on by a thread, struggling on to stave off the spectre of closure."