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#SupportPubsNOW! Coalition of pro-pub organisations launches petition for an urgent package of support to save pubs

The Campaign for Pubs is part of a coaltion of pro-pub organisations calling on the UK Government to announce an urgent package of support, including grants at an adequate level to enable pubs and publicans to survive into 2021 and to avoid many families facing hardship.

The British Pub Confederation, Campaign for Pubs and Forum of British Pubs, supported by many licensees, have launched a petition calling for this – and are asking all who care about pubs and pub culture to sign and share it, as well as writing to their own MP. The Campaign for Pubs and Forum of British Pubs are members of the British Pub Confederation along with 12 other pro-pub organisations.

The call for urgent support comes following the Spending Review statement from the Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Astonishingly, the Chancellor made no mention of pubs in his statement, despite the Government singling out pubs and hospitality singled for restrictions that will prevent thousands of pubs from opening and put thousands of businesses at risk.

The petition, calls on the UK Government to announce an urgent package of support for pubs including:

  • Closure grants increased to (at least) £1000 a week to cover costs and allow pubs to get through this crisis until they can properly open again.
  • A statutory rent code including the right to a rent review for all rented pubs, so that rent reflects the reality of the challenging trading conditions going forward, even when pubs can open plus a presumption that commercial rent will not be charged during closures.
  • A business rates holiday in 2021/22.
  • VAT of 5% on all pub/hospitality sales, including on all drinks, to support all pubs.

The organisations are warning UK Government that their approach to the hospitality sector will lead to mass closures, unemployment and hardship from the impact on pubs, which were already struggling before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country. Pubs have been unfairly singled out in the new tiered system for England, despite evidence clearly showing that other locations, not pubs, have been where the locations responsible for the ‘second spike’. There is real anger and dismay amongst publicans and operators that having invested huge sums to make pubs Covid safe, to be able to open again, that now pubs are being scapegoated and closed (or restricted in way that makes opening unviable) including to justify the Government’s 5 day Christmas lifting of the rules.

Pubs in Northern Ireland & parts of Scotland are also closed (or banned from selling alcohol, which amounts to forced closure) and pubs in Wales & other areas of Scotland are at risk from further forced closures.

From Thursday 26th November, many pubs are facing closure from being in Tier 3 and Tier 2, which bans pubs from opening unless they serve ‘substantial meals’ something that makes opening unviable for many. Without additional urgent support for al pubs that cannot viably open, publicans up and down the country are warning that they will have no choice but to close or walk away.

The current level of grant support is not enough to cover ongoing costs, especially rent, never mind support publicans and their families. December trade is vital for pubs and hospitality and even with increased grants, which are now essential to avoid mass pub closures & hardship, this will not remotely compensate pubs for loss of this vital period of trade. With reports of a post-Christmas lockdown (needed due to the 5-day Christmas relaxations) and further closures and restrictions till at least Easter next year, ongoing support will be vital to stop pubs closing. This includes a cut VAT for all pubs (not just on food, which was grossly unfair to smaller, wet-led pubs) and a business rates holiday, as well as introducing a statutory right to rent review for all rented/leased pubs, to ensure that the impact of the Covid pandemic is shared by property owners and pubs alike.

The Campaign for Pubs, Forum of British Pubs and all British Pub Confederation member organisations are now asking members, licensees and pub supporters up and down the country to sign the petition and also to write to their own MP calling on them to urge the UK Government and devolved Governments to #SupportPubsNOW.

Commenting, Greg Mulholland Campaign Director of the Campaign for Pubs and Chair of the British Pub Confederation said:

“The Government needs to wake up to the reality that the restrictions they are imposing are on the verge of causing the loss of many pubs up and down the country, which would change the face of countless communities and the identity of the nation. Pubs that have survived two world wars are on the verge of closing their doors for good due to questionable Government rules made it seems without an understanding of their devastating impact.

“With pubs and hospitality singled out for restrictions, then Ministers must reflect that with support or they will be directly responsible for mass pub closures and hardship for the many thousands of families who rely on pubs for their livelihoods. We call on all those who care about pubs and our world-famous pub culture to speak up and demand support for pubs now, if we are to see pubs in many communities continue to exist”.

Ian Cass, Vice-Chair of the British Pub Confederation and Managing Director of the Forum of British Pubs said:

“Many publicans are bewildered at the governments targeting of pubs, having invested time and money in creating safe environments for both staff and customers, while allowing large numbers of people to continue to shop in large retail environments which have far less safety measures in place than pubs. Pubs and publicans are being thrown to the wolves, unfairly seeing their businesses and livelihoods threatened without any real evidence to justify the restrictions being imposed on them.

“Now that The Government has announced these devastating and deeply questionable restrictions on pubs and hospitality, they need to come up with an urgent and meaningful package of support including adequate grants to see pubs through the winter which support the pubs and publicans who run them, rather than on unreasonable rents. Anything less and the blame for pub closures, increased unemployment and damage to communities will lie squarely with Ministers who haven’t listened”.

Inez Ward, Vice-Chair of the British Pub Confederation and Justice for Licensees said:

“The Government and MPs must now decide if they actually care about pubs and want to save them, rather than just having their photograph taken in them for their local paper. This means proper support to compensate for the vitally important trade that the new restrictions have taken away. It is now crucial also that the Government wakes up and finally deals with the greedy pub owners who have demanded unreasonable rents on pubs. The biggest cost for many remains rent and without Government intervention, rent alone will force pubs to close on the current levels of trade so it is time for Minister to act to show they support pubs and will give tenants the right to a rent review”.

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