Greene King to axe 800 staff and close some sites permanently amid fall-out from Covid-19 crisis

One of Greene King's flagship pubs, the Isle of Ely, has created a buzz since it opened on Ely leisure park. Greene King...

One of Greene King's flagship pubs, the Isle of Ely, has created a buzz since it opened on Ely leisure park. Greene King has not revealed which of its pubs are threatened by its decision to close some sites and axe jobs. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Hundreds of jobs will go and 26 sites closed permanently by the Suffolk brewer Greene King.

The company runs pubs and restaurants in Cambridgeshire including the Isle of Ely at Ely leisure park and The Bridge at Waterbeach. It also owns the Lamb Hotel, Ely.

Greene King will axe 800 staff amid the fall-out from the Covid-19 crisis and restrictions such as the 10pm curfew, it has said.

Last week the brewer announced closure of its 11 Loch Fyne restaurants including the Cambridge outlet and the Loch Fyne Seafood and Grill restaurant at Elton near Peterborough.

It is not yet known which sites will close and how many in Cambridgeshire will be affected.

The company said it had tried to find staff different roles within the company but it had not always been possible.

Consultations with affected staff are expected to begin towards the end of this week.

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The Bury St Edmunds-based company operates 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels across the UK and employs a total of around 38,000 staff.

A spokesman for Greene King said: “The continued tightening of the trading restrictions for pubs, which may last another six months, along with the changes to government support was always going to make it a challenge to reopen some of our pubs.

“Therefore, we have made the difficult decision not to reopen 79 sites, including the 11 Loch Fyne restaurants we announced last week.

“Around one-third will be closed permanently and we hope to be able to reopen the others in the future.

“We are working hard with our teams to try and find them a role in another of our pubs wherever possible.

“We urgently need the government to step in and provide tailored support to help the sector get through to the spring and prevent further pub closures and job losses.”

In recent statements, Greene King chief executive, Nick Mackenzie has been a vocal critic of the 10pm curfew and the lack of government support.

He said: “Pubs are just starting to get back on their feet after lockdown and these new restrictions are a significant setback.

“We urgently need the government to extend the furlough scheme for hospitality venues and confirm what additional support it will provide to protect jobs and the future of pubs.

“We made safety our priority when reopening and fewer than one per cent of our 1,700 managed pubs have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace since reopening in July, which demonstrates pubs are not disproportionately spreading cases and our measures are working.

“Removing a key trading period and further damaging customer confidence looks set to cost us several million pounds per week on top of already reduced customer numbers in our pubs to maintain social distancing. Given these restrictions and likely timescales we need support from government to avoid further job losses in the hospitality sector in addition to the 135,000 so far.”

He later went on to criticise the lack of support for hospitality businesses, saying: “The industry is still dealing with the crippling after-effects of the nationwide lockdown and the cumulative effect of the new restrictions, combined with the singling out of pubs, mean the measures announced by the chancellor don’t go far enough, especially for drink-led city centre pubs.

“More targeted support is needed to help those people whose pubs remain closed, or businesses that were starting to recover which have again become unviable.”