Pub sector leaders have called for a clear timeline and reopening date as new figures reveal the severe losses incurred last year.

According to the British Beer and Pub Association, trading restrictions and lockdowns caused sales of beer to plummet 56% in 2020, down by £7.8b.

In Q2 2020, which incorporated the first full coronavirus lockdown, pub beer sales dropped by 96% compared to 2019.

In Q4, the combination of local lockdowns and tiered restrictions hit sales by 77% year-on-year.

Despite being able to operate under lesser restrictions in Q3, and the additional support received through the VAT cut and Eat Out to Help Out scheme, sales were still down 27% for the period.

Given the degree to which restrictions and lockdowns hit trade last year, the BBPA and pub bosses have released a recovery roadmap proposal, that states pubs must reopen as soon as the most vulnerable people are vaccinated, at the same time as non-essential retail and other parts of hospitality.

It calls for the removal of mandatory restrictions such as the substantial meal rule, ban on household mixing and 10pm curfew to be removed when pubs reopen in a “timely way”, and added that a fiscal stimulus package and extension of the VAT cut and business rates holiday will be essential.

It has also urged Government to consider a significant beer duty cut, to help pubs trade profitably and start to recover.

Without such support, the BBPA has warned thousands of local pubs will fail due to their unsustainable debt and cash burn levels.

In his support of the proposal, Greene King CEO Nick Mackenzie said the sector was grateful for the levels of support it had received so far, but that the sector urgently needs confirmation on additional support given the long-term restrictions it has faced.

“Pubs are the heartbeat of their communities and can play a really important role as we emerge from this pandemic, creating significant numbers of jobs and reconnecting people to help tackle social isolation that has affected so many people over the last year,” he said. “But without publicans having clarity on reopening and additional support, there is a real risk of more viable businesses closing their doors in the weeks and months ahead.”

St Austell Brewery CEO Kevin Georgel highlighted the injustice of hospitality suffering more than any other industry and said that the tier-level restrictions made it impossible for pubs to trade viably.

“The Great British pub is part of our social fabric. It’s far more than just a huge economic contributor,” he said. “The avoidable loss of these wonderful, historic, community assets will be felt by generations to come, if the Government don’t act now and provide clarity and further support.”

Hawthorne CEO Mark Davies emphasised the crucial nature of immediate financial support from Government and a viable reopening roadmap.

“A failure to do this will inevitably lead to business failure, loss of jobs and a destruction of community value in so many locations around the UK,” he warned.

JW Lees managing director William Lees-Jones added that current levels of government support and furlough had reduced his business’ losses by 50%, but added that 99% of its beer is sold in pubs and more than half through its own 150 pubs in the North West.

“We can only trade if pubs are open and pubs in our heartland in Greater Manchester have now been closed for 14 weeks since 5th November on top of the 15 weeks from 20 March,” he said. “This is clearly not sustainable, and we need to learn how to live with the virus as we re-open the country.”