Action needed as hundreds of pubs have failed to re-open, CAMRA figures show

In response to pub closure figures for 2021, the Campaign for Real Ale calls for a VAT cut, changes to business rates systems and a new online sales tax to help give our locals a boost

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has released its pub closure statistics for 2021 and is calling for intervention from government to protect the great British pub. The figures released today show that across Great Britain last year 290 pubs were demolished or converted to another use – an average of just over five a week. There was an increase in the number of new pubs being built, or existing buildings being converted into pubs, averaging just over seven new pubs opening every week in the second half of the year. However, over 500 pubs were also classed as a ‘long term closure’ in 2021, where the building is still classed as a pub for planning purposes, but the business itself has closed or is empty and without tenants to run it, showing the lasting effects of the pandemic, and the present cost of business crisis.

The Campaign has highlighted a number of steps that Government across the UK should take in response to the report, and to the cost of living crisis, including:

  • An immediate cut in VAT for on-trade food and drink sales, to help both businesses and consumers
  • Introducing an Online Sales Tax, with the funds raised directed to relieve the grossly unfair rates burden on the pub and hospitality sector
  • Using the upcoming Statutory Pubs Code Review to bring more tied tenants into the scope of the Pubs Code for England and Wales; and making sure a robust Scottish Pubs Code is introduced later this year to offer protections for tied tenants in Scotland for the first time
  • Bringing forward the introduction of the new draught duty rate for beer and cider, confirming that it will apply to containers of 20L and over
  • Confirming the retention of the duty exemption for small cider makers making under 70HL of product a year

Commenting, CAMRA Chairman Nik Antona said:

“These figures show that whilst there is some encouraging news about new pubs opening in 2021, there is still a big problem with pub businesses not reopening after the pandemic. “With the cost of living crisis affecting consumers, and the cost of business crisis facing our pubs, brewers and cider makers, we are really concerned that this positive news from our 2021 figures will turn into a nightmare report for 2022. “Pubs are not only vital employers, but they are key to community life up and down the country – bringing people together and tackling loneliness and social isolation. Government across the UK must do more to make sure pub businesses can survive the cost of business crisis, and that consumers can still support their local pubs at a time when household budgets are being squeezed.

“CAMRA is doing our bit, with our Summer of Pub campaign rallying people to support their locals at every possible opportunity, but we also need action from political leaders. The UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments must take action to safeguard the future of the Great British pub so they can continue to play their part at the heart of community life in the years to come. “That’s why CAMRA is calling for a cut in VAT for food and drink served in pubs and the introduction of fairer business rates systems that desperately need designing so that pubs are taxed fairly – together with an online sales tax in order that online businesses pay their fair share too.”

Brewing and pub trade body calls for introduction of Online Sales Tax

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has today called for the introduction of an Online Sales Tax to level the playing field, in response to a Government consultation.

In its submission to the consultation, the BBPA highlights how the current system overtaxes pubs, that the brewing industry is the highest taxed business sector in the UK, and how an Online Sales Tax would help to make the taxation system fairer and ease the current burden Britain’s brewers and pubs face.  It also sets out why an OST is crucial for the regeneration of high streets and local communities.

However , the BBPA highlight that any new tax must be ringfenced and not “become simply another revenue source”, but instead be created, and contained, for the purposes of bringing down the overall costs of business rates for the sector. They call for Government to ensure the sector is no worse off through an addition of a new tax.

Running from the end of February until today, the Government consultation has sought views from across all sectors on the possible introduction of an Online Sales Tax to rebalance the taxation of the retail sector amidst the continued rise of online retail.

Beer could go up as much 50p a pint.

The price of a pint is set to rise by 50p in the UK as industry insiders warn pubs risk going bust. Rising costs of beer, energy, food and labour are putting pressure on pubs as they battle to stay afloat amid soaring inflation and supply chain problems. UKHospitality said pubs were facing “unprecedented” price rises.

How could the cost of a pint go up? Currently the average cost of a pint in the UK is £4.07, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. Nik Antona, CAMRA’s National Chairman, said the sector is continuing to deal with “employment, supply chain and cost of good crises” which is causing the price of a pint to rise. She said: “This could spell disaster at the pump for small brewers and publicans if consumers make the decision to stay at home to cut corners.” Earlier this week the chairman of the City Pub Company Clive Watson said that ‘pub inflation’ was currently running at about 10%. James Calder, chief executive of Society of Independent Brewers, explained: “We have seen huge spikes in people costs, transport, raw ingredients and energy. “With most brewers running very tight ships already, our sector unfortunately needs to be able to pass on these price rises to customers including the pubs in between. Otherwise they will go bust. “No business likes to raise its prices but right now it is a necessity to survive.”

What could be done to prevent the price hike? Industry experts have urged the government to scrap the 12.5% VAT rate on pubs, restaurants and hotels, and have called for the scheduled rise back up to 20% in April to be scrapped. Experts claim these measures could help ease pressure on the industry.

This coud be tough for some village pubs. Post details of effects on your village pub

Pub is The Hub: New research highlights the social value publicans and pubs create by providing local services

The social value that pubs and publicans created by providing local services during the first Covid-19 lockdown has been unveiled in a new report from Pub is The Hub, the not-for-profit organisation that helps pubs to diversify and provide essential local services.

The report called ‘The Social Value of Pubs and Publicans providing Services in their Communities’ has for the first time measured the social value impact of pub services. Social value looks at the broad effects that an organisation is achieving with its work and takes into account the wider social, economic and environmental wellbeing benefits that a service or project can bring to an area. Pubs and publicans ensured that essential services remained accessible to local residents at the heart of their communities during the Covid-19 lockdowns and they will be crucial in helping communities rebuild as the pub sector reopens. The evaluation undertaken by Cornwall Rural Community Charity, which is experienced in measuring social value, found that for every £1 spent on a project through the Pub is The Hub Community Services Fund, in the first lockdown, between £8.98 and £9.24 of social value was created. This illustrates that one suitable pub diversification project with a grant of £3,000 from the Community Services Fund could potentially create over £27,000 in social value to a local area.

The Community Services Fund, which was started in 2013, offers small grants to help pubs diversify and has already supported over 160 pubs to provide more than 30 different types of services including village stores, Post Offices, allotments, community cafés and libraries. Further projects are currently in the pipeline or awaiting funding provision. The 25 Covid response pub projects analysed in the evaluation included village stores, communitycafés and takeaways, food delivery services, IT and information hubs, a bakery, a workshop and community gardens. The evaluation analysed various outcomes such as the impact that the projects had on helping support older, disabled and vulnerable people and how publicans worked collectively with local organisations to help reduce isolation and tackle social needs.

Use the power of the pub to level up, Localis report urges

In a report issued today entitled ‘The Power of Pubs – protecting social infrastructure and laying the groundwork for levelling up’ Localis argued it was vital that the lockdown roadmap is not allowed to slip back further for pubs, and that the commitment to end all trading restrictions by 21 June must be delivered to return all pubs to viable trading.

Without such assurances and medium-term support to help place the pub sector at the foundations of a strong recovery, the authors warned local economies and community resilience in left-behind parts of the country – including ‘blue wall’ former industrial heartlands, rural and coastal areas – would be particularly hit.

Among key recommendations, the report authors urged central government to further reduce the tax burden on the pub sector to aid the recovery and called for an extension to the Business and Planning Act 2020. Local councils should be directed to help pubs by issuing licence fee refunds – paid for by the Treasury – for the six months to June 2021, through business support grants, the study advised.  Additionally, where premises have been put to new community purposes during the pandemic, councils should offer a diversification grant to pubs looking to retain or expand the services they provided during lockdown.

VILLAGE PUB CREATES 5,000 MEALS FOR NHS STAFF

Pubs may be currently closed to the public, but it has been a busy week at The George Inn, Newnham, which has just finished creating a staggering 5,000 meals for NHS staff, as reported by the British Guild of Beer Writers

Husband and wife team Dave and Claire Elliott have run the Shepherd Neame pub since 2018. They have worked hard to pivot their offer since the impact of the Covid crisis, transforming the old stable into a village shop selling fresh fruit and vegetables and a selection of homemade produce and gifts, and also introducing a takeaway menu. They were delighted to be contacted by the team at the Medway Maritime Hospital a couple of weeks ago, asking if they would be interested in supplying takeaway lunches for staff at the hospital. Dave said: “They told us that they wanted to give their team a little treat as a thank you for their dedication during the past months, and were keen to source the food from a local business. They gave us a budget and we came up with five different dishes which they approved, and then we got to work!”

Dave and Claire brought back four members of their team from furlough to undertake the mammoth task of creating 1,000 meals a day for five days. They prepared and cooked the food from 6pm to around 10.30pm, then returned the next morning to pack it into boxes from 6am to 10am, before Dave delivered them to the hospital. They started last Sunday, January 17, and finished their final delivery on Friday (January 22). Dave, who is the pub’s Head Chef, used to work in event catering before taking on The George Inn, so he was able to come up with a delicious selection of dishes that could be produced in bulk: duck in hoisin sauce with spring onion, cucumber and egg noodles; smoked mackerel with new potatoes and chive mayonnaise; roasted vegetables with braised rice; gluten-free penne pasta with poached chicken and pesto; cous cous with sundried tomatoes and olives and griddled halloumi. The team also included a £5 voucher for The George Inn with every lunch. Dave said: “The past year has been incredibly challenging as Claire and I have been working hard trying to find new streams of income for the pub and support our team and our community, while also home schooling our three daughters Silvy, Elsy and Amy, who are aged from five to 15. Being entrusted with this order for the hospital has been a real boost for us. It was fantastic to be able to bring our team back together and there was a real buzz in the kitchen. We are also incredibly pleased to be able to give something back to our hard working NHS staff.”

James Devine, Chief Executive at Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are thankful to the team at The George Inn for supplying us with thousands of discounted meals and vouchers which we offered to our staff as a well-earned treat. The distribution of these lunches was our latest way of recognising colleagues who have worked incredibly hard and sacrificed so much throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are also very proud that this opportunity gave us the chance to support a local business at a time of such economic uncertainty. We thank the Medway Hospital Charity for their financial support and also Dave, Claire and the entire George Inn team for their generosity.”

Find out more about The George Inn at www.thegeorgeinnnewnham.co.uk

Urgent action required to deliver Government grants to struggling pubs, BII survey reveals

The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has conducted a survey of licensees to discover the reality of accessing Government grant support for their pubs. With results varying wildly from one local authority area to another, the consistency of delivery of these vital funds has given a further challenge to cash strapped licensees. The overly complex requirements for applying for these funds, has meant that less than 1 in 4 pubs have received the full payment of grants they were entitled to during the Autumn and Winter months of 2020. In particular, the grants designed to support pubs who could still open, but with very severe restrictions on their trade, (Local Restrictions Support Grant – OPEN) have caused confusion in local authorities and a delay or even denial of funds for the licensees who have had little or no income in 2020. In addition, 1 in 7 licensees have yet to receive a single payment into their banks from grants they are entitled to.

“The other clear message is that our pubs need a full package of measures to support their recovery going forwards. 80% of our respondents believe cancellation of Business Rates for 2021/22 is critical to enable them to plan for the survival of their pubs once they are allowed to reopen. Similarly, 64% believe it is also critical to continue the reduction of VAT at 5% for the rest of the year, whilst almost as many believe this reduction should also apply to alcohol served in their venues.

Let pubs trade as off licences during lockdown to save our locals, Government urged

Over six thousand pub-goers have flooded MPs’ inboxes to seek fair treatment for pubs and to protect cask beer during the third lockdown in England. CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has launched a bid to give struggling pubs some much needed money through the tills by allowing them to be able to sell beer and cider in sealed containers for people to take away and enjoy at home. The lockdown rules mean that whilst shops can continue to sell alcohol to take away, pubs can only do so via home delivery and not through a collection service as in previous lockdowns.

The campaign was raised in the House of Commons during yesterday’s emergency debate on the new lockdown restrictions in England, with MP for Stroud Siobhan Baillie asking the Government to look at the rules on the sale of takeaway alcohol as “it is not fair to stop this activity when supermarkets and off-licences can sell regardless”.

Commenting, CAMRA’s National Chairman Nik Antona said:  “It is absolutely unfair that whilst big supermarkets can continue to sell alcohol, our struggling local pubs in England can’t act as an off licence too. “This was a real lifeline for many pubs during previous lockdowns and is desperately needed again now, with landlords up and down the country struggling to make ends meet after months of closures, curfews and restrictions. Pubs are also the only place where people can get cask beer which is under threat due to months of forced pub closures, with some breweries stopping production. “The least the Government can do is take a sensible approach, think again and allow community pubs to sell takeaway products. No-one wants to see drinking in the streets during a lockdown – but allowing pubs to sell alcohol in sealed containers for people to take home – just like shops do – would be completely reasonable. “Without a change in these lockdown laws we risk seeing more locals going to the wall, traditional British cask ale under threat and people being forced into supermarkets instead of being allowed to support local businesses by buying beer from the pub to take home.”

BBPA responds to third lockdown announced for England and urges Government for comprehensive pub support package

The British Beer & Pub Association, the leading trade association representing brewers and pubs, has today responded to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that England is to go into a third lockdown. Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “A third lockdown is yet another blow to our sector. Particularly after it has faced an abysmally quiet Christmas and New Year’s, which saw many pubs remain closed over what is meant to be their busiest time of the year. The announcement today adds to the woes of pubs as it shows they are a long way from reopening properly. The road to recovery for the pub sector just got longer. Given the circumstances, a wave of business failures is imminent unless a greater package of financial support from the Government is given to secure pubs and the brewers that supply them. That means grants in line with those in the first lockdown and support beyond April when the business rates holiday, lower VAT rates and furlough scheme all end. Having made it this far through the crisis, it would be disastrous if the Prime Minister didn’t now deliver the support our sector needs to ensure it makes it through to Easter when we hope to return back to normality. “Without such support, this lockdown will just tip pubs over the edge meaning jobs vital to communities across England will be lost forever to the detriment of the economy in the long term. Ultimately we know that pubs will eventually be a part of the way out of this crisis and back to normality. Some are even offering themselves up as vaccine hubs, which drives home the fact losing them would do untold harm to our communities.”

BBPA says Chancellor should be investing to SAVE existing jobs in sectors like pubs and hospitality, in addition to investing in new jobs   

The British Beer & Pub Association, the leading trade association representing brewers and pubs, has today responded to the Chancellor’s Spending Review. The trade association has said the Chancellor’s decision to invest in new jobs, but not do more to save thousands of pub jobs that already exist, is ‘staggering’.  With the tightening of restrictions and no additional support given to the pub sector today by the Chancellor, the trade association has said thousands of pub closures and job losses are now inevitable, unless the Government delivers the support pubs need as a matter of urgency.    

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said:  “The lack of action by the Chancellor to save pubs and jobs by giving them the proper support they need is staggering. It seems pubs have now been cast adrift by the Government. To save businesses and jobs the Chancellor needs to come back to the House this week and set out an enhanced package of support ahead of the new tier system coming into effect. Not only is the Government unfairly rendering pubs unviable or forcing many of them to stay closed this Christmas, it isn’t even giving them the full financial support they need to survive. Whilst the news of a review of business rates reliefs in the New Year is a glimmer of positive news, it is not nearly enough. “It’s all well and good investing in new jobs, but the actions of this Government are killing viable pub businesses and thousands of jobs that already exist. Yet the Government is not doing enough right now to help them survive nor Britain’s brewers that are reliant on them.  “If our sector isn’t allowed to trade properly, or at all, how on earth can the Chancellor expect it to survive and protect the livelihoods of the thousands of people working in it? Adequate grants need to be given to pubs urgently or they simply won’t survive the new tier restrictions or Christmas.  “The Government must do more to help our pubs, the livelihoods they support and the communities they serve across the UK. If not, this really could be the end of the pub in Britain as we know it.”