Pubs group Marston’s slumped to a £105.5 million pre-tax loss in the 26 weeks to April 3 as the lockdown and restrictions during the winter months hit hard.
But bosses said they are hopeful for a strong summer as restrictions ease and have seen early indications that the future for the business is bright.
Since reopening to customers for outdoors drinking last month – and subsequently welcoming them indoors this week – bosses said sales have been at 80% of pre-Covid levels.
As a result, profits since reopening are likely to be flat, reversing the heavy losses suffered during the year, as the business takes advantage of the continued business rates and VAT relief.
Marston’s said 710 pubs were reopened for outdoor trading on April 12 in England, with 66 more on April 26, whilst 145 were opened in Wales and Scotland on the same day.
But bosses said more normalised levels of trading will not be achieved until social distancing restrictions are removed next month under the Government’s road map.
Revenues during the six month period to April 3 dropped £343.3 million to just £55.1 million, although the balance sheet was boosted by £291 million from the sale of Marston’s brewing business.
Chief executive Ralph Findlay told the PA news agency that the company has seen larger bookings, such as for weddings and wakes, start to recover while staycations are also set to help trading.
“There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic this summer,” he said.
“There is real pent-up demand which have already seen since April, in my view.
“I think we will also benefit from sport, with the Euros on this summer, as well as tourism with Staycations likely to really boom again this year.
“Sometimes there is caution with larger bookings but we have seen a real increase so far for the summer and expect that is just going to keep improving.”
During last autumn the company invested £2 million in outdoor seating and said it is hopeful the summer will be successful with strong demand for UK staycations.
Tenants continue to be supported through rent waivers and grant relief assistance, the company added.