England pubs expected to sell 13m pints on Euro 2020 final day

Strict customer numbers mean landlords have turned away many bookings due to limited capacity

Last modified on Sat 10 Jul 2021 03.01 EDT

Pubs in England are expected to sell 13m pints on Sunday but strict rules on customer numbers mean hosting the historic final will not be enough to rescue their struggling finances.

Billed as the closest thing to being in the stadium itself, sales in bars or pubs showing sport are usually 200-300% higher on big match days during a normal year. However, capacity constraints mean although sales during Euro 2020 are up about 60% on match days, that is only in comparison with poor takings over the past Covid-hit year.

“We are seeing an uplift in drinks sales on match days but because of capacity constraints it is nowhere near as much as it would usually be,” said Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of industry trade body UKHospitality. As a rule, pubs were only taking 70% of their usual sales which was not enough to break even, she said.

In Norwich, Dawn Hopkins said her pub, the Rose Inn, will be full, although at the moment that means just 30 customers. “We are obviously fully booked,” she said. “I’ve been turning away people for weeks who want to watch the football but social distancing and the need to be seated limits our capacity. I think everybody’s grateful to be trading again but it’s still very difficult.”

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) estimates nearly 13m pints will be sold on Sunday, with 7.1m during the match itself. That total would be nearer 17m but for Covid restrictions, which mean venues are at 50-60% of normal capacity.

Fuller’s, a pub owner in London and the south-east, said most of its 209 venues were fully booked on Sunday but it could have “taken a lot more” were it not for the “disappointing” restrictions. “It has brought people together though and pubs are the next best thing to being there,” the company added.

Greg Mulholland, of the Campaign for Pubs organisation, said the Euros had brought welcome extra trade but pubs were struggling, with table service challenging and costly. Some landlords said they had been warned by licensing officials they could be fined if fans got carried away, and he hoped the authorities took a “commonsense approach”.

“Publicans have worked incredibly hard to abide by the rules and regulations, but whatever the rules are, people will sing and celebrate if England win,” he said.

Alistair Skitt, who runs the Lord High Admiral in Plymouth, is not looking forward to the task of policing Sunday’s fun. “Our main tactic has been to inform customers what is expected when they arrive, not after they have had a few,” he said, adding that people were generally respectful.

“Our staff make it very clear Covid rules are still being enforced: that customers have to wear masks when they go to the toilet, and there should be no excessive shouting and screaming at the screen, which is very difficult to enforce as I’m sure you can imagine.”

Skitt, who will be wearing his England shirt from Euro 1996, said the event will be “bittersweet” for the city centre pub which will host just 60 fans rather than a crowd of nearly 200. He had “probably turned away 500 people”.

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