BrewDog's James Watt condemns 'clueless Government' as bar group permanently closes six sites

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

BrewDog's James Watt condemns 'clueless Government' as bar group permanently closes six sites

Related tags Brewdog Craft beer Finance James watt Energy Multi-site pub operators Government

BrewDog co-founder James Watt has announced that six of the group's UK bars are to close permanently in the face of soaring energy and cost price increases.

In a LinkedIn post​ published this afternoon (31 August), Watt hit out at what he described as a 'clueless Government' for failing to support the hospitality through the current cost of living crisis, adding that he hoped the closures were not a sign of things to come. 

"Last night we confirmed we were to close six bars around the UK and it is heart-breaking to lose these locations," he said.

"I warned a few weeks ago, costs are rising to such a degree, with no prospect of any help from a clueless Government, that these very difficult decisions have to be made.

"It was going to be simply impossible to get these bars even close to financial viability in the foreseeable future. We had no choice but to close them.

"I am so, so happy that due to the strength in other parts of our bar estate, every single person has been offered a role in a separate bar nearby, so there will be no job losses. But I pray this is not a sign of things to come.
"Reality in the hospitality space is starting to bite and bite hard. And the Government needs to get a grip, now."

BrewDog, which operates an estate of around 75 bars in the UK, recently launched its biggest venue to date​ within the newly redeveloped The Sidings beneath London's Waterloo Station.

Watt said the Waterloo bar had vastly exceeded BrewDog's already ambitious expectations, with over 20,000 visitors in its first two weeks of operation.

"The Waterloo bar in many epitomises where we want to evolve our bar estate.

"Of course not all our bars can have the scale of Waterloo, but we are looking to do something different with our bars - to provide incredible experiences for our wonderful, fun, loyal customers who want to drink a beautifully brewed beer, in a great environment, served by knowledgeable, passionate people with the option of the food we all love. And we have lots of new openings planned with over 20 locations in construction and planning.
"But it’s important the success of Waterloo doesn’t blind us all to the reality we as a sector are facing, nor to the sheer ‘rabbit in the headlights’ paralysis of this zombie Government, still intent on this bizarre leadership farce, instead of getting to grips with the kind of challenges that will result in more business causalities than the pandemic did."

Watt's words come as calls grow across the sector for the Government to step in and support businesses as they face surging energy prices. 

Yesterday (30 August), representatives from J.W Lees, Greene King, Admiral Taverns, St Austell Brewery, Drake and Morgan and Carlsberg Marstons, who make up the Board of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), signed a letter to the Government and both Conservative leadership candidates warning small businesses will close and jobs will be lost if immediate action isn’t taken on energy bills​.

Independent takeaway businesses also called on the Government for urgent support amid the energy crisis. In a separate letter backed by the British Takeaway Campaign, more than 750 restaurant and café owners called for immediate action to ensure they’re able to keep their doors open.

Meanwhile, this morning trade body UKHospitality wrote its own letter to the Government, calling on it to introduce a business rates holiday for the sector and reverse April's VAT rise​ to avoid the collapse of thousands of firms this winter.

Related topics Restaurant Openings Casual Dining

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