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.” 

72% of hospitality and pub businesses could become unviable and close in 2021

Pub and hospitality trade bodies the British Beer & Pub Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping and UKHospitality have today revealed that 72% of sector businesses expect to become unviable and close in 2021. The trade bodies say the finding, from a survey of members of all three trade associations conducted by hospitality market research company CGA, shows thousands of hospitality and pub businesses need the Government to do more to support them. The survey found that the tiering system used across England was particularly damaging to pubs and hospitality businesses. Under tier one restrictions, only 25% of operators said they could turn a profit. Under tier two restrictions, 76% said they would be unviable or operating at a loss. For those pub and hospitality businesses having to operate under tier three restrictions, the survey found that 94% would be unviable or operating at a loss. Research

Heading into December, a key month for the very survival of pubs and hospitality businesses due to the increased trade of the festive period, the trade bodies are calling on the Government to adapt the current tier restrictions by relaxing the ban on household mixing in tier two, alongside a modest extension to the 10pm curfew. They are also asking for the Government to allow ‘wet-led’ pubs (pubs who serve just drinks) to re-open in tier three without having to serve food as well, provided they follow the other rules. The medium risk tier one should also be relaxed further, according to the trade bodies. They say these measures are needed to help enable communities, friends and families to safely gather this Christmas in venues which are following Government guidelines, serving to tables, enforcing social distancing and working with NHS test and trace, whilst helping ensure the sector’s very survival by maximising its ability to viably trade in this critical period.

As pub and hospitality businesses operating under these restrictions are so affected, the trade bodies say the Government must also provide them with larger grants as the current level of support is simply not enough for them to survive on. They say grants in line with those given during the first lockdown are needed to support businesses who are uncertain over how long they could be in tier three especially.

‘Extended local lockdowns could destroy pubs and livelihoods’ says the BBPA and is lobbying government for business support if closure plans are enacted

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), the leading trade association representing brewers and pubs, has today responded to reports that local, stricter lockdown measures could be placed on the North of England – forcing pubs and other hospitality businesses to close again. The trade association has said that the introduction of the rumoured local lockdown, as part of a new tiering system, in the North of England could destroy pubs there. It would be on top of what is already a very challenging period for the sector with the 10pm curfew and rule of six, plus service limited to tables, resulting in a huge reduction in consumer confidence.  The trade association is asking the Government for evidence-based, proportionate measures – calling into question the effectiveness local lockdowns on pubs will have in stopping the spread of the virus. It notes that no hard evidence has been given yet to suggest that pubs, with their strict adherence to Government guidelines, are unsafe, making it unclear if such blanket measures will make a major difference. 

However, the BBPA says that whatever the additional restrictions the Government decides to implement are, they must be accompanied by additional and adequate financial support from the Government too. This it says would be crucial for pub businesses who could be forced to close again, which would push many of them to breaking point and force them to lay off staff, write off stock and cover fixed costs with low or no revenue at all in a bid for survival.  

According to the BBPA, the Job Support Scheme set to replace the Job Retention Scheme in October was already not fit for purpose to save jobs. It certainly won’t protect jobs in pubs facing a local lockdown. It is urging the Government to act fast and pull together a comprehensive support package to ensure jobs are saved and pubs do not close their doors for good in communities facing a local lockdown. 

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Make no mistake, a local lockdown without immediate additional and adequate support will destroy many pubs.  “Our sector is already facing the 10pm curfew, rule of six, table service only and low levels of consumer confidence, meaning many are already struggling to stay open. A local lockdown would push many to breaking point – forcing them to close for good with countless jobs lost, impacting livelihoods and communities forever.  “We are still yet to see the hard evidence in England that blanket measures to lock down pubs, with their strict adherence to Government guidelines, will significantly stop the spread of the virus. Statistics citing that a proportion of people who test positive as having visited hospitality venues in recent weeks is not evidence in itself of greater risk. “What we do know is if pubs are closed people will gather in homes or outside to drink, where there are no social distancing measures in place or the NHS track and trace system.  

“As a result, we are calling on the Government for an evidence based, proportionate response that recognises pubs are a regulated and safe place for people to socialise in – part of the solution in managing COVID-19 and supporting jobs and the economy.  “If the Government is really going to press ahead with the introduction of further restrictions, it needs to ensure it puts forward an additional and adequate financial package of support for our sector.  “Quite simply, the Job Support Scheme is not fit for purpose to save jobs in businesses facing a local lockdown. Proper measures need to be taken, as they were in the Job Retention Scheme, if jobs are going to be saved. Grants will also be needed for businesses impacted by local lockdowns to survive this period.  “On top of this, our sector across the whole of the UK needs an extension to the VAT cut and business rates holiday, and substantial beer duty cut, if it is to have any chance of a recovery.”  

CAMRA thinks the First Minister’s announcement on further restrictions for Scotland’s pubs is absolutely devastating news for pubs and breweries.

Responding to the First Minister’s announcement for further restrictions for pubs, CAMRA’s Director for Scotland Joe Crawford said: “The First Minister’s announcement banning the serving of alcohol indoors for 16 days across the country – and forcing pubs in five health board areas in the central belt to close altogether – is absolutely devastating news for pubs and breweries. “Publicans who have been operating at reduced rates, and who have already invested thousands of pounds of their dwindling reserves making their premises COVID-secure, now face 16 days without any turnover whatsoever. Understandably, they feel like pubs have become the scapegoat for the pandemic.

“The £40 million in support for the hospitality sector is welcome and necessary but the devil will be in the detail. Without proper financial compensation now – and longer-term financial support to help deal with reduced trade as a result of restrictions like the curfew – we risk seeing thousands of pubs, clubs and breweries closing for good before Christmas

Over 100 hospitality businesses write to Prime Minister urging him to intervene to avoid the bleakest of winters

Over 100 hospitality businesses in the UK, including pub businesses, restaurant chains and hotel operators have written directly to the Prime Minister warning that he must personally do more to help them. In the letter to the Prime Minister, led by trade associations the British Beer & Pub Association, UKHospitality and the British Institute of Innkeeping, it says that without additional and urgent support many businesses will not “survive this bleakest of winters” and hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost. The letter states that even prior to the latest COVID-19 restrictions, half of all hospitality businesses did not believe they would survive beyond the middle of next year. It says that the latest restrictions – including the 10pm curfew – “have made this fight to survive even harder.” 

It calls on the Government to commit to review the appropriateness of the latest restrictions at least every three weeks, and to remove them if they are found to not be impacting the spread of the virus. The letter also says that if hospitality businesses are to survive and “lead the economic and employment recovery”, they need more Government support.  It states that the Chancellor’s winter support package “does not go nearly far enough for our imperilled sector.” It continues, “without an immediate review of the support on offer to pubs, restaurants and wider hospitality businesses, many will be lost for years to come.” 

The letter immediately calls on the Prime Minister to remove employer contributions for the hospitality sector to the Job Support Scheme and provide a package of grant funding for those businesses that face restrictions being brought forward. To plan and rebuild beyond the winter, it also says “the VAT cut and business rates holiday must also be extended through 2021 and beer duty cut.” In closing, the letter asks the Prime Minister “to intervene as a matter of urgency” and offers a meeting of sector leaders to help draw up a sector-specific support package to reflect sector-specific restrictions and  preventing “the devastating damage that is drawing ever closer.”   

Letter to Prime Minister: https://www.beerguild.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Hospitality-open-letter-to-PM-September-2020.docx

Support pubs now Rishi or you’ll be responsible for mass closures, job losses and hardship”: Publicans write open letter to the Chancellor

Britain’s publicans have written a powerful open letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, urging him and the Government to urgently support pubs or be responsible for mass closures, job losses and hardship.   The letter, organised by the Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign group representing pubs, publicans and pub-goers, expresses publicans’ dismay at the woeful lack of support from the Chancellor in his economic statement on Thursday, and points out that without further help many pubs now face imminent closure under new Government-imposed restrictions.

Publicans all over the UK are urged to add their name to the letter, which can be signed online here. The letter comes at the end of the first weekend of pubs operating with a 10pm curfew and mandatory table service, with most reporting significant drops in trade. Many publicans are now considering whether to close their pubs and either mothball them until after the restrictions end or to simply walk away altogether, especially with many pubs still facing large rent bills from uncaring and intransigent pubcos and commercial landlords.

The letter explains how, in the Chancellor’s statement this week, thousands of pubs that don’t serve food were given no help and support whatsoever, despite the fact that the 10pm curfew and table service requirement have both had a drastic impact on the viability of pubs. Both measures simultaneously reduce trade and increases costs, a disastrous double whammy on top of the three-month national lockdown, existing restrictions and additional local restrictions in some areas. The letter also points out that while the extension of the 5% VAT rate for eating out is of limited help to some pubs, it gives another huge boost to alternative big business hospitality venues, including fast-food chains like McDonalds and KFC and other chains, and it does nothing at all to help many of the pubs that need help most: smaller “wet-led” pubs, micropubs and taprooms, all run by small businesses and operating at the heart of their communities. The letter also points out that the new Job Support Scheme offers no help at all to most pubs, as on current trading figures many actually need more staff not fewer, and certainly could not afford to subsidise staff for not working.

The letter expresses publicans’ serious concerns at the latest restrictions imposed by the Government, with pubs all around the country reporting significant drops in trade, many to the point where they will have no choice but to close the doors to prevent further losses. There is real anger amongst licensees about the 10pm curfew, which has no scientific basis, but which makes it impossible for some pubs reliant on Friday and Saturday night trade to operate profitably. Many publicans and others have expressed the folly of such a policy, for which the Government has already been forced to admit it made no impact assessment and which has already been shown to have led to crowding on the streets and on public transport at closing time, and furthermore risks people turning their backs on the controlled environment of the pub and instead going to uncontrolled social gatherings in their homes or other unregulated venues. There is also anger that, with venues already having invested in physical infrastructure such as screens and other measures to keep customers safe, the Government has now insisted on table service, which not only makes many pub staff less safe but also increases staff costs significantly, something that most pubs simply cannot manage with the current levels of trade.

The letter calls for an urgent package of support for pubs, warning the Chancellor that if he doesn’t listen to UK publicans, he and the Government will be directly responsible for mass pub closures, job losses and hardship among thousands of families reliant on the pub trade. The measures being called for are:

  • 5% (or even better zero) VAT on ALL sales in pubs
  • Grants to cover full costs if pubs cannot viably trade due to the current restrictions and have to close temporarily
  • A business rates holiday extension, with a complete overhaul for business rates for pubs prior to recommencing
  • A statutory right to an immediate rent review for all pubs, to tackle the fact many pubs are facing wholly unreasonable rent levels, considering the Government restrictions and reduced trade

The letter lays out the stark reality that many pubs are better off closing due to the new restrictions, and highlights the unfairness of the fact that, despite his own Government imposing these restrictions, the Chancellor announced nothing to help pubs through this next six months.

“The UK Government has turned its back on pubs and publicans” Licensees fury as Chancellor fails to offer any support for imposing trading restrictions

The Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign to promote, support and protect pubs has expressed the dismay of thousand of UK pubs and publicans at the complete lack of support for thousands of pubs in the Chancellor’s statement today. Pubs represent the most iconic and unique sector of UK hospitality, yet despite claiming to “help hospitality”, the Chancellor today provided no support at all to many pubs, despite the fact that pubs are currently reeling from the announcements of 6 month extra restrictions including a 10pm curfew, which will increase costs while reducing trade, rendering many pubs unprofitable.

The Chancellor extended the 5% VAT rate for eating out and accommodation, which is some help to those pubs that also serve food and inns that offer bed and breakfast, however for thousands of small business wet-led pubs, including many iconic community locals, micropubs and taprooms, this was no help at all. Meanwhile, the Campaign notes, huge fast-food and restaurant chains, including the likes of McDonalds and KFC, once again received a huge boost. The Chancellor also announced the new Job Support Scheme, but this too is of limited or no benefit to many pubs. Some pubs have no staff (especially at the moment, with trade so reduced). Many tenant and freehold landlords are now running pubs entirely on their own, or just with their families, just to get through the Covid crisis. Even for pubs that do have staff, the problem now is in fact the need for more staff in spite of reduced revenue, so the scheme will be of no help at all with that burden.

The Government imposed restrictions that have come in today – 10pm curfew and mandatory table service – mean both reduced trade and additional costs for pubs – meaning many pubs already facing reduced trade due to the Covid-19 crisis become loss-making. It was hoped the Chancellor would realise and acknowledge this, yet instead wet-led pubs received nothing and even many pubs that serve food, will not receive anything like sufficient benefit to cover the impact of the new restrictions. Many pubs, especially in towns and city centres, are reliant on trade at weekends up to midnight or 1am, and without busy Fridays and Saturdays they are unprofitable, so the recent imposition of the 10pm curfew was a huge blow. The further requirement for table service only (which also puts publicans and staff at greater risk than service behind a screened bar) means that in all but the very smallest pubs, extra staff are needed, due to it not being possible for one member of staff to serve tables, the way it is to serve behind the bar.

Pubs were expecting help today to deal with these issues, but it was not forthcoming, and now the livelihoods of thousands of people are under severe threat. Furthermore communities everywhere now face the permanent closure of thousands of pubs, something which irrevocably and disastrously change the face of this country, its villages, towns and cities. The Campaign for Pubs is now asking members and licensees up and down the country to write to their own MP to call for support to support and save pubs – and urge the Government to wake up and act before many pubs are threatened.