Campaign for Pubs

1000 publicans write open letter to Rishi Sunak demanding support for pubs to avoid mass closures, job losses and hardship

Over 1000 publicans have now signed 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 also urges the Government to think again over the damaging 10pm curfew, which has seen pubs up and down the country face a business-threatening drop in trade.

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 Winter Economic Statement and points out that without further help many pubs now face imminent closure under new Government-imposed restrictions.

The 1000 signatures coincide with the second weekend of pubs operating with a 10pm curfew and mandatory table service. After the second Friday night of the 10pm curfew, publicans up and down the country are reporting huge drops in trade, many saying that the Friday 2nd October, was “the worst Friday ever”.  Many pubs are reporting trading figures 60-70% down. One publican said, “I don’t even want to talk about how soul-destroying last night was”. Another said, “I’m 25% down from my break-even point for the second week in a row can’t carry losses for too much longer will have to make some decisions Monday!”.

There is huge anger towards the Government and a sense that pubs are being both scapegoated and allowed to close, with no care for the many people and families whose livelihoods depend on the pub. One said “We’re all going to lose everything, unless we get help, BIG HELP. It’s what the government wants, blatantly obvious. We are being targeted and made to blame”.  Another added, “I think Boris and his advisors should come and work a shift! Let’s see how the rules change after that!”

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.

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.

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 letter urges the Chancellor to meet with publicans, having ignored the voice of the people that actually devote their lives to running pubs for far too long (as opposed to those representing large pubcos and breweries). The letter ends with such a plea:

So we are urging you to listen to the nation’s publicans – to meet with us and understand that we need urgent support now to get through the next six months. If you ignore us, you and the Government will be responsible for the closure and loss of many important pubs up and down the country, as well as causing loss and hardship for publicans, pub staff and their families.

Publicans all over the UK are urged to #SpeakUpForPubs and add their name to the letter, which can be signed online here.

Commenting, Paul Crossman, Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of 3 pubs in York said:

“1000 publicans up and down the country have now signed our open letter calling on the Government to urgently support pubs and review the questionable recent restrictions. These latest measures have consigned thousands of pubs and other hospitality venues to a nightmarish limbo. Pubs that are normally perfectly viable, and that contribute enormously to the economy and the public purse, not to mention the wellbeing of their communities, have been rendered non-viable overnight. It is clearly unreasonable for them to be expected to continue trading at a loss with no help from the Government whose own restrictions have increased costs whilst reducing trade to an unsustainable level.

“Most pubs are very small businesses that have worked very hard and invested heavily in order to be part of the solution to the Covid crisis, something which was working well according to the government’s own evidence. There is real concern that recent measures have actually reduced the safety of customers and staff, and so may be imperilling the businesses of now desperate publicans for no good reason. Support for our businesses and employees is now crucial, and an immediate review of the measures is essential”.

Dawn Hopkins, Vice-Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of the Rose, Norwich (a wet-led pub) said:

““We urge publicans up and down the country to sign this letter to make it clear to the Government that unless they change course, many pubs will close and many jobs will be lost. Britain’s publicans feel completely ignored and betrayed by Rishi Sunak and the Government. Their restrictions are making many pubs unviable yet the Government are offering no support. If Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson ignore us then they will go down in history as the men who destroyed the Great British pub, so we urge them to change course, look again at these destructive rules, and to either allow us to trade safely and viably as we were, or to properly support us”.