Up to 250 jobs could be at risk at City Pub Group without an improvement in the chancellor’s Job Support Scheme, CEO Clive Watson has told MCA.

Given the continued closure of certain premises – the group has reopened 37 of its 48-strong estate – Watson said that Sunak’s proposed 33% wage subsidy plan will not be sufficient to support pubs that are still closed, or those where operating hours have been significantly reduced.

“If there’s no modification on the chancellor’s job initiative last week, then inevitably there will be large-scale job cuts,” he said. “It’s what’s going to happen, it’s just economics.

“We’ve got roughly 1,000 employees, and I would say if there’s no enhancement of the latest job initiative we’ll be looking at 200 to 250 job cuts.”

Unsurprisingly, it is the business’ inner-city venues that are most at risk, with two of its three zone one pubs still closed, as well as a central Bristol site in an area “surrounded by offices.”

“Whoever’s on furlough now is on furlough for a reason,” he continued. “Either the pub hasn’t been reopened or we don’t need that resource.

“We’ve tried to share the hours around as much as we can and look after staff that have worked with us for a number of years, but without further support it’s going to be tough.”

Despite the uncertain outlook for this portion of its estate, Watson added that “broadly speaking, the first few months since lockdown have been as good as could be expected.”

The group recently reported revenues at 80% of previous levels, and following its £22m equity raise in April, has said it is in a strong position to emerge and rebuild quickly from the crisis.

And Watson is hopeful that whilst the latest government restrictions – its 10pm curfew and ‘work from home’ message – will inevitably impact some of the group’s venues, it is well suited to manage the measures.

“Obviously if you’re a late-night bar it’s going to be far more challenging, but from the beginning of last week we’ve been steering people via our central booking system to come out earlier,” he said. “I think customers will educate themselves to come out earlier, and we’ll also shift our times across most of our pubs.

“I think we can overcome it to a large extent.”

In fact, Watson argued that, to an extent, for the more ‘traditional’ pubco’s like City Pub Group, the long-term impact of the latest measures on consumer behaviour could be an opportunity.

“We’re seeing a rewind in the pub sector, certainly in the short term,” he said. “Traditionally they used to close at 10.30pm during the week and 11pm on a Saturday, there was none of this late-night stuff. And people tended to go to their local, as opposed to catching Uber’s into hot spots like Shoreditch.”

So, with consumers facing an earlier cut-off and the mass-trend towards home-working, “there will be a switch back to where pubs were before the relaxation of licensing laws,” he said.

“There’s a massive shift back to the local and that’s where pubs were 30 years ago.

“Chimney pots are the way forward.”