British pubs face a "perilous" situation this Christmas, the industry has warned, with sales down more than 60 per cent despite lockdown measures easing in England.
Thousands of pubs will not survive without further support or urgent changes to restrictions, the British Beer and Pub Association warned.
Just four in 10 UK pubs opened their doors last weekend, a poll by the BBPA found.
Those that did reported sales were down by 62 per cent on average. Including pubs that remained closed, sales plunged 84 per cent compared to the same weekend last year.
The figures point to one of the toughest festive seasons ever for pubs with more than half of operators saying they expect to close more sites in the coming weeks.
The BBPA called on pub-goers to visit their local this Christmas and said it was safe to do so.
The BBPA is urging the government to re-think its approach to restrictions, or provide pubs with the financial support they need to survive the winter.
Hospitality industry bosses have criticised the government's failure to present the scientific backing for its decision to close pubs in tier three areas and to call last orders at 10pm in pubs that are open.
Thousands of pubs are not viable in tier two areas of England where they can only serve drinks at a table with a substantial meal, the BBPA warned. In Wales, pubs can open but may not serve alcohol and must close at 6pm.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “These numbers illustrate the perilous situation our pubs find themselves in this Christmas. The tier restrictions that have been unfairly placed on our pubs are killing them. This must change, or thousands of pubs simply won’t survive.
“How else can the government expect our pubs to survive if they cannot open or operate properly? It is cruel and unfair on hardworking publicans up and down the country who have more than played their part in fighting the virus.
“Christmas should be a time where we can enjoy one another’s company in the pub round a warm fire and with a fresh pint in hand. Christmas sadly just won’t be the same this year without our pubs being able to open properly.
“It’s simple. Either the government reduces these extreme restrictions, so pubs have a fighting chance of survival, or they recognise the damage they are doing to our pubs and provide them with the proper level of grants they need."
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