THOUSANDS of bars, pubs, sports clubs and other licensed premises closed last year as the hospitality sector was hit by the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, new research suggests.

Britain lost around 6,000 licensed premises last year, nearly three times than in 2019, according to a study by consultants CGA and business advisory firm AlixPartners.

The pandemic and wave of lockdowns led to a net decline of 5,975 sites in 2020, around five per cent of the total, said the report.

The turmoil of 2020 led to the permanent closure of 9,930 sites, with just under 4,000 opening for the first time, according to the study.

The number of restaurants, pubs, bars and sports and social clubs all fell last year amid the ban on events and socialising, said the report.

“Our report takes stock of the huge damage wreaked by the pandemic on the licensed sector in 2020,” said Karl Chessell of CGA.

“With stop-start trading for much of 2020 and a widespread shutdown during what should have been a bumper Christmas, nearly 10,000 licensed venues have not been able to make it through, and it is sadly inevitable that thousands more casualties will follow.

“After such a bleak Christmas it is difficult to be optimistic about the market.

“But consumers are desperate to get back to eating and drinking out, and we can be confident that footfall and sales will return when the sector can finally reopen.

“In the meantime, the case for government support over the next few months is urgent and compelling.”

AlixPartners’ managing director Graeme Smith added: “The wave of closures seen across the hospitality sector in 2020 have been devastating.

“Longer term this may bring opportunities for ambitious operators, by freeing up property and labour and reducing competition and costs.

“However, right now survival remains the name of the game.

“The rapid rollout of the vaccine offers hope, but with restrictions unlikely to be lifted until Easter at the earliest, the coming months will likely see more sites lost for good.”