City Pub Group eyes expansion after ‘encouraging’ outdoor reopening
City Pub Group has said it hopes to more than double its estate to 100 pubs as its bosses struck an optimistic note despite the heavy toll of the coronavirus pandemic.
The company, which owns 45 drink-focused pubs and four development sites, tumbled to a £5.1 million loss for the year to December after the impact of months of enforced closures.
However, the group said it is still positive about the future and saw “encouraging” early sales after venues reopened beer gardens and outdoor areas a month ago.
It told investors on Tuesday that its 24 pubs currently open have seen sales at 77% of the levels it saw over the same period in 2019, before the pandemic struck.
City Pub said it has seen “high levels of pent-up demand” and “significant” booking numbers for remaining sites which will reopen next week.
Clive Watson, executive chairman and founder of the business, told the PA news agency that “things are moving in the right direction again” after a tough year.
“We’ve learned that the British punters are more hardy than we could have predicted and have been really keen to brave it despite bad weather,” he said.
“That definitely gives us reason to be optimistic when we can get people inside venues because it seems like there is real demand to go the pub again.
“There still has to be an air of caution because there will be plenty of customers who haven’t returned but I’m really please at where we at right now.”
Mr Watson said he still believes the company can expand to 100 pub sites and will target more market town locations.
Last month, the group increased its stakes in two hospitality businesses, Barts Pub Ltd, owner of the historic Kensington Park Hotel, and Mosaic Pub and Dining as it continued to invest in its growth plans.
Nevertheless, City Pub revealed on Tuesday that trading in 2020 was hit hard by the pandemic, with total revenues plunging to £25.8 million from £60 million in the previous year.
Shares in the company lifted 4% higher to 134.7p in early trading.