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Government support package not enough to save pubs and livelihoods through forced closure periods

The Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign group representing pubs, publicans and pub-goers has expressed serious concern on behalf of thousands of pubs and publicans that the Government support package announced by the Government today simply isn’t enough to stop pub closures, hardship and insolvencies.

With reports that pubs across swathes of the North of England are set to be closed, following the forced closure of many pubs in Scotland, the Chancellor announced a package that includes a reduced furlough scheme and low-level grants for businesses forced to shut, but the package fails to give sufficient help to many pubs.

The grants on offer will provide reasonable support for larger chain establishments, which follows the same pattern as previous Government support, but provides very limited help for smaller pubs and pubs being charged ongoing high rents by pubcos and commercial landlords, something that so far the Government has refused to deal with.

The support for closed businesses is in the form of a reduced furlough scheme, which helps some pubs employing staff, but doesn’t help those either with no staff, or pubs that have been unable to employ staff because of reduced trade experienced due to the existing restrictions and low levels of trade. It also includes modest grants. Small businesses with a rateable value of or below £15,000 can claim £1,300 per month; medium sized businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 can claim £2,000 per month; and larger businesses can claim £3,000. However, this works out at just £300 a week for thousands of smaller pubs and for pubs of all sizes, the grants don’t even cover ongoing costs, never mind the complete loss of income for publicans and their families, or the costs of having to shut down pubs again and lose beer and other stock.

Many pubs are still facing having to pay large rent bills, despite being closed with some pub-owning companies (pubcos) and commercial landlords still demanding rent, despite the pub being unable to trade. With more pubs set to be closed for a second time, this will lead to some publicans having to walk away. So far, the Government have refused to tackle this problem and have ignored large corporations who continue to demand rent, on their pubs and other smaller businesses and yet all they have done is produce a meaningless voluntary Code of Practice. The Campaign for Pubs is now calling on the Government to step in and force property owners and pubcos, some of whom are based offshore, to share the pain of pubs being forced to close.

The package of support comes following a letter from over 1100 publicans up and down the country, organised by the Campaign for Pubs and expresses the real crisis many pubs are facing and the real anger felt by many publicans towards the Government along with a sense that pubs are being scapegoated when hospitality has not been responsible for the second spike.

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.

Commenting, Greg Mulholland, Campaign Director of the Campaign for Pubs said:

“The level of support announced by the Chancellor is nowhere enough to compensate pubs being forced to close. It won’t even cover rent and mortgage payments for many pubs, never mind compensate publicans for complete loss of trade or help them put food on the table for their families.  For smaller pubs that are already struggling with reduced trade, it’s just £300 a week which won’t cover ongoing costs, costs of closure and loss of stock. Many publicans will be forced into even more debt just to survive.

“The Government must also now step in and stop pubcos and commercial landlords from charging rent on the pubs that are forced to close. So far, they have been ignoring the fact that even when pubs and other small businesses are closed, unscrupulous property owners continue to charge wholly unreasonable levels of rent.

“So, the Government must do more to help pubs it forces to close. There is real anger when pubs have been working hard to operate safely and it is clear that they were being shut to cover up for the spread in other places and Government failures over track and trace. Unless this is a short closure period and without further support, many pubs up and down the country face closing for good and that will be the fault of the Government”.

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

“The support announced by the Government won’t even cover pub costs, never mind help publicans feed their families when once again their businesses are forced to close.  Plus once again, no consideration has been made of the costs of closing and having to pour away gallons of beer and other stock.

“Many publicans will be facing the dreadful choice of borrow on credit cards or overdrafts, just to get through closures, or face insolvency or bankruptcy. This is not an acceptable position to be put in by a Government that is shutting down safe businesses and following a strategy that clearly isn’t working, as well as destroying livelihoods”.


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