Campaign for Pubs

Grants for pubs in England welcome but not enough to cover a fraction of December profits lost, never mind deal with further restrictions

The Campaign for Pubs has responded to the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, of one-off grants for pubs and other businesses in England affected by the impact of COVID and Government restrictions and guidelines.

The grants – which it is not clear are for December or also to cover further restrictions which may be announced next week – amount to just £2700 for many pubs, £4000 for larger pubs with only a few of the largest pubs eligible for the £6000 grant figure.

These modest sums don’t cover the loss or profit over a single December weekend for most pubs and for many, not even for a single December night, with many pubs relying on December trade to get through the difficult months of January and February, something that is even more important after the last disastrous 20 months for pubs and publicans.

The Campaign for Pubs wrote to the chancellor on Friday 17th December, outlining what a meaningful package of support would look like, warning that some publicans had already gone out of business or given up. Unfortunately the grants have not been accompanied with other vital support requested on behalf of the nation’s publicans.

The Chancellor claims other support is already in place, but in reality this refers to temporary reductions of other taxes that the Government continue to insist on pubs paying, despite the loss of trade directly caused by Government restrictions and guidelines. In addition, the 12.5% VAT rate doesn’t apply to sale of beer and other alcoholic drinks, so is of virtually no benefit to thousands of England’s wet-led pubs.

Worse still, many pub tenants are facing seeing most or all of their grants taken straight by pub owning companies and commercial landlords, who are still demanding full rent in December (and ongoing) despite the dismal levels of trade faced by many pubs. So for many pub tenants, they won’t see a penny of the grants, which will all be taken by large companies and commercial landlords, rather than helping publicans get through the winter. This will make it impossible for some pub tenants to survive.

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

“Whilst it is welcome that we finally have an announcement of some financial support from the Chancellor, the reality is that many pubs will receive just £2,700, which doesn’t cover the profit from a normal December weekend, never mind cover the huge loss over the whole month.

“More financial support will be certainly needed if further restrictions are introduced as seems likely otherwise some publicans will not be able to get through the winter. It is also unfair that small brewers hard hit by the impact of restrictions on pubs are again being excluded”.

Dawn Hopkins, Vice Chair of the Campaign for Pubs said:

“The situation for many pubs remains critical, already in the last few weeks publicans have given up. The small grants will help pay some bills but more support is needed and the Chancellor needs to understand that wet-led pubs don’t benefit from the 12.5% VAT rate on food.

“We also have the ridiculous situation where we don’t know if we will be open next week or not and for new year, so we once again face the possibility of wasted stock if restrictions are announced last minute. This isn’t a way to deal with the current situation and is causing huge anxiety for pubs, brewers and suppliers”.