Lockdown was predicted to cause a sharp rise in alcohol consumption and binge-drinking but most UK drinkers (65%) actually drank the same, less or stopped drinking altogether during lockdown compared to previously. In the weeks following the reopening of the hospitality sector, this trend has continued. Brits are continuing to drink in moderation, but more and more are choosing to do so at the pub. Almost half (42%) of adults in England have made a long-awaited return to their local, following the reopening of hospitality on 4 July.

Brits continue to drink in moderation despite the reopening of pubs

The latest YouGov survey commissioned by the Portman Group (2,296 UK adults, 12-13 August) shows that the moderate majority continues to prevail in the UK, even with the much-celebrated reopening of pubs. In fact, of those who drink alcohol, even more people are drinking the same, less, or have cut out alcohol altogether, than during lockdown. These figures have now increased from 65% (May 2020) to 88%. This shows an ongoing trend of people drinking less during this unprecedented time and supports data by Nielsen which showed that in the 17-week period covering lockdown to 11 July 2020 Brits consumed almost 1.3bn litres of alcohol during the UK’s lockdown period, almost half the 2bn litres consumed in the same period last year.

Any initial suggestion that people were beginning to drink more has not lasted.

  • 88% of UK drinkers are drinking the same (55%), less (26%) or have cut alcohol out altogether (7%) since the hospitality sector reopened compared to before lockdown.
  • Concerningly 8% of drinkers said they were drinking more since the hospitality sector reopened than before lockdown. We encourage anyone concerned about their own, or another person’s, drinking to visit Drinkaware or the NHS online for free advice and guidance.
  • The moderate majority of UK drinkers (66%) continue to drink responsibly, within the Chief Medical Officer guidelines of 14 units per week. Weekly intakes remain similar to before lockdown.

Almost half of English pubgoers return to their local

While many of us continue to drink at home, a great number of Brits have resumed much loved habits of gathering at their local pub. Pubs have put in place diligent social distancing measures to ensure that communities can revisit pubs while feeling safe and secure. Brits are responding well to the ‘new normal’ with almost three quarters (72%) saying social distancing would not deter them from a return to the pub.

It’s not just drinkers who have been making the most of the pubs reopening, pubs have long been a happy and inclusive environment for all members of the community. The recent period has seen Brits making a cautious return to many much-loved venues outside of just hospitality, including shops and beauty salons, and it seems that, despite one in eight (13%) feeling the pinch after months of furlough or even job loss, we are still setting aside time and money to return to our favourite institutions, something that has been made clear with the popularity of August’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

Looking at changes in data throughout the UK, it is clear that English pubgoers are the most likely to have returned to the pub, with 42% having been at least once. This is in comparison to over a quarter of adults (26%) in Northern Ireland who haven’t visited once.

Pubs reopened later in Scotland (15 July) and Wales (3 August), which may be why locals appear to have been more cautious to return. Since reopening, just 37% of Welsh adults and 30% of Scottish adults have revisited pubs, highlighting that adults in England have been the most determined to prop up the bar again.

‘Gen-Z’ celebrate the summer at the pub

Gen-Z in particular have been seen to make an eager return to the pub. The youngest generation (18-24) are the most likely to have visited pubs and bars since they reopened, with over half (51%) visiting at least once, whilst the older generation are most likely to avoid pubs and bars, with 64% of those aged over 45 not having visited pubs and bars since they reopened. However, bucking the idea that congregating leads to excessive consumption, generation sensible maintains a moderate approach with only one in seven (14%) 18-24 year olds having increased their drinking since the hospitality sector reopened, compared to before the UK lockdown

Speaking about the results of the survey, John Timothy, CEO of the Portman Group, the social responsibility and regulatory body for alcohol in the UK, commented:

“During the course of the COVID-19 crisis there has been a fear that many people would turn to alcohol and that misuse would increase. Yet the British public are showing continued moderation both at home and, happily, now back at the pub. It’s great to see people supporting their community pubs while drinking sensibly and maintaining social distancing”.