City Pub boss fears closures as he calls for European visa

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Boss Clive Watson calls on government to ‘put ideology aside’

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City pub group bosses have warned the closure the capital faces from rising costs and staff shortages, while calling on the government to introduce temporary visas for European workers to support the hospitality industry.

Clive Watson, chairman of Citi Pub Group, told the Standard: “We have credit crunches, we have COVID, but this inflationary period is undoubtedly the most challenging. [and] Will be closed if employees are not available to perform their duty.

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“We have a declining birth rate, so you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to find out that we have an aging population. Why not put the ideology aside and say, ‘European workers at our doorstep’ Give them a chance to live.

Shares of Citi Pub Group, which runs Bow Street Tavern in Covent Garden and Cock & Bottle in Notting Hill, rose 10% this morning after the firm said sales had exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

Revenue in the first half of 2022 more than doubled from the previous year to £26 million, while the firm made a profit of £1.3 million. The company raised £17 million in April after selling six pubs to reduce debt.

“Thank God the top line is catching up but the cost side is very challenging,” Watson said.

The former PwC accountant, who sold his previous pub venture, Capital Pub Company, to Green King for £93 million, indicated he was ready to close pubs that were facing closure.

“We’re lucky, we’re a large company and we have a strong balance sheet … If the market is distressed, this presents an opportunity.”

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