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Pub group Marston's could cut 2,150 jobs after new UK virus curbs

(Reuters) - Pub operator Marston's MARS.L launched consultations on up to 2,150 job losses on Thursday, saying new UK coronavirus restrictions had forced its hand after months of progress in reopening hundreds of its pubs.

FILE PHOTO: Signage for a Pitcher & Piano bar, owned by Marston's, is seen in London, Britain, June 23, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Newman/File Photo

The company said that all of the employees concerned are on furlough but are likely to be affected as it starts a full cost review to see out the latest curbs, which began this week in Liverpool and are likely to be extended to other UK regions.

“The introduction of these further restrictions and guidance affecting pubs is hugely disappointing in view of a lack of clear evidence tying pubs to the recent increase in infection levels,” the company said on Thursday.

Pubs, restaurants and other leisure businesses were ordered to close at 10 p.m. in restrictions put in place across the whole of England last month, but the government has imposed a new three-tier system that requires pubs and bars to close in areas in the “very high” alert level.

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, warned on Wednesday that the capital is likely to face tighter restrictions this week.

The big chains have made progress since pubs were allowed to reopen in July and Marston’s said 99% of its 1,350 pubs had opened, with like-for-like sales averging 90% of last year’s levels.

The company, which has 21 pubs in Scotland and 18 in the Liverpool area, has already scrapped its dividend and said it needs more funding to navigate through the crisis.

Shares in Marston’s, a two-century-old brewer that owns the Pitcher & Piano bar chain and is known for its Pedigree, Hobgoblin and Lancaster Bomber beers, fell 2.5% to 43.7 pence by 0705 GMT and are down 66% this year.

Group sales for the year to Oct. 3 were down 30% at 821 million pounds.

More job losses are expected in the UK as the government’s furlough scheme comes to an end this month.

Rival Revolution Bars RBG.L has announced plans to close outlets and Mitchells & Butlers MAB.L said its outlook was challenging after imposition of the 10 p.m. curfew.

Reporting by Jasmine I S and Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh.V and David Goodman

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