Pubs and bars facing wave of winding up petitions

Pubs and bars in the UK are struggling to survive as winding up petitions against them rise 73% from 2019, and it has been reported that pubs and bars have already faced 26 winding up petitions so far this year, having also been challenged by falling numbers of customers prior to lockdown. 

What will happen to struggling pubs after lockdown?

Once the suspension of winding up petitions is lifted on 30 June 2020, it is expected that there will be a wave of winding up petitions against pubs and bars, who are likely to be some of the last businesses to reopen. Creditors are expected to seek whatever assets are available after the suspension is lifted. 

Chief executive of UK Hospitality, Kate Nicholls, has said that “many pubs are seeing the first threats of winding up petitions being waved around” where they have missed rent payments.

“If we don’t get a resolution at a global level, if you rely on landlords and lessees to sort it out themselves, it will be a bloodbath come June when we have the next quarter rent due.”

How are pubs and bars being supported during lockdown? 

Those pubs and bars with an annual rental values lower than £51,000 are eligible for cash grants of £10,000 or £25,000 per property. However, those businesses that do not qualify for these grants are struggling with some landlords having refused to defer rent. 

Pub-owning businesses have varied in the level of support that they have provided with Star Pubs & Bars choosing to only reduce rent rather than cancel it. Fuller’s and Admiral Taverns, however, have chosen to suspend rent payments during the lockdown. 

Greene King, who have over 3,100 pubs across the UK, have written to nearly 1,000 of their tied tenants in relation to individual discussions between tenants and their business development managers on possible eligibility for the Greene King Pub Partners Support Fund. Greene King have also chosen to defer rent payments as well as replace, keg and cask beer that has gone out of date during the lockdown.

How can companies oppose a winding-up petition from HMRC?

If your company is concerned about a winding-up petition from HMRC, your company can challenge that petition on the following grounds:

  1. That the debt alleged in the statutory demand or petition to be owing is genuinely disputed on substantial grounds by your company;
  2. Your company has a genuine right of set-off against the creditor (i.e. HMRC) that exceeds the amount claimed in the statutory demand; or
  3. In certain other limited circumstances (for example such as jurisdiction, company likely to become insolvent, technical or procedural error or delay).

In order to oppose a winding-up petition, you would need to file a witness statement in opposition with the Court no fewer than five business days before the date when the petition will be heard by the Court (rule 7.16 of the Insolvency (England and Wales) Rules 2016). You would also need to provide a copy of that witness statement to the petitioning creditor at least five business days before the hearing.

Your company is entitled to appear at the petition hearing and to oppose the making of a winding-up order. It is usual for companies to instruct solicitors and/or barristers to appear on their behalf at the petition hearing.

If a company chooses not to instruct lawyers, then any director can appear at the hearing on the company’s behalf. However, other agents of the company (such as accountants) are not entitled to appear on the company’s behalf.

How we can help your company

As a leading law firm with a track record of success, you can be assured that your matter is in safe hands. Our success rate is a result of the dedication of our lawyers who will diligently review your matter so it has the best possible chance of success from the outset when it matters the most.

Why should you instruct a specialist insolvency lawyer at the winding up petition hearing?

The rules surrounding insolvency are technical and it is unlikely that a someone not versed in insolvency laws will achieve a successful outcome. Winding up in particular and insolvency in general is a niche practice area – indeed many solicitors in general practice will rarely have experience in this specialist discipline.

Do not underestimate the severe consequences that winding up a company entails. It is likely that seeking the advice of a specialist insolvency lawyer will be of far more benefit to you than ignoring impending proceedings or seeking to conduct the litigation yourself as a layman.

Not based in London? We provide nationwide representation

That does not matter, we will represent you no matter where you are based in England or Wales.

If you contact us through our contact form, by email or by phone, one of our winding up petition team members will contact you by phone to discuss your matter and assess whether we can help you.

If we can, we will arrange a conference with a senior member of our winding up petition team. This meeting will take place either in person or using our telephone conference facilities or via Skype if you prefer. Therefore, no matter where you are based in England or Wales we can represent you.

Instruct Specialist Insolvency Lawyers

We provide a no cost initial case review to establish whether or not we can help you. We are a specialist City of London law firm made up of Solicitors & Barristers and based in the Middle Temple Inn of Court adjacent to the Royal Courts of Justice.  We are experts in dealing with matters surrounding insolvency in particular issues.  Our team have unparalleled experience at serving statutory demands, negotiating with debtors/creditors, setting aside statutory demands and both issuing and defending winding up petitions vigorously at the Royal Courts of Justice (Rolls Building), or the relevant High Court District Registry or County Court with jurisdiction under the Insolvency Rules

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