LONDON: UK sales of beer have slumped to the lowest level on record because of the coronavirus outbreak, trade industry body the British Beer and Pub Association said on Thursday.
In the first quarter of this year, overall sales were down 7.2 per cent year-on-year to 1.5 billion pints, the body said in its latest "Beer Barometer" report.
The BBPA said the fall was "entirely down" to sales in pubs and bars, which were down 16.4 per cent compared to the same period last year to 668 million pints.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called time on pubs, bars, restaurants and other leisure facilities remaining open on Mar 20, three days before he ordered a nationwide lockdown.
He acknowledged the closures were "extraordinary" and took away "the inalienable right of freeborn people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub".
BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said the latest figures were "stark" and revealed the "devastating impact" of the virus outbreak on breweries and pubs.
"The cliff-edge impact on our sector, when people were told to stop going to the pub and then when they were shut down, is clear to see," she added.
"We are urging the government to get Britain brewing again and re-open our pubs from July 4."
Britain is gradually easing stay-at-home restrictions, with widespread concern about the impact of two months of lockdown on the economy.
Non-essential shops and services, as well as zoos, wildlife parks and drive-in cinemas can open from next Monday, and individual attendance will be allowed at places of worship.
The pub trade said it needed a firm indication from the government about a date for reopening, as brewers required three weeks' notice to be able to brew fresh beer.
Pubs also needed to be able to reopen safely, in line with social distancing measures.
"This will help save pubs from permanent closure," said McClarkin.