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Campaign for Pubs

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Campaign for Pubs calls on the Chancellor for urgent support following ‘devastating and catastrophic day’ for pubs in England or this will be known as the Government that destroyed the Great British pub

The Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign group representing pubs, publicans and pub-goers have issued an urgent call for a package of support for all UK pubs and publicans to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, following the announcement today that thousands of pubs will be shut through December, due to being in Tier 2 or 3 in the UK Government’s tiers of Covid restrictions for England.

The Campaign for Pubs has declared today a catastrophic day for the hospitality industry in general and devasting for pubs, publicans and their families. The Campaign is calling for people to add their names to the #SupportPubsNow petition calling on Rishi Sunak to urgently bring in proper support to avoid mass closures and hardship. The petition has attracted nearly 5000 signatures in less than 48 hours. The Campaign has stated that unless the UK Government provide such a package – or allow pubs to open safely – then it will go down as the Government that destroyed the ‘Great British pub’.

Earlier today the Government confirmed the worst fears of many in the sector, following several days of stress as widespread leaks and rumours circulated suggesting that virtually no part of the country would be placed into Tier 1. The confirmation that was announced today is a devastating blow for pubs, publicans and their families. Without urgent and adequate support, it is feared that many pubs will not open again as well as seeing many pub families face hardship.

The support grants currently in place are simply not sufficient to allow businesses to meet the enormous ongoing cost of closure, or that of severely restricted trade. For the vast majority of pubs they will not even cover rent or other property costs, let alone other fixed overheads. As regards rent in particular, the Government needs now to acknowledge the failure of the voluntary Code of Practice which is simply being ignored by many commercial landlords, and must now take statutory measures to ensure that small business publicans are not driven out of their premises and livelihoods by escalating and punitive arrears.

December and the festive season is a vital time of year for all hospitality businesses, and many publicans, managers and their staff feel deeply let down that despite all evidence to the contrary, the Government’s policy has unfairly targeted and demonised a sector that has willingly gone to great lengths to make itself Covid-safe, and which has shown itself to be very much part of the solution rather than the problem. Pubs have overwhelmingly abided by the new regulations in order to safeguard their staff, customers and communities, and this new tier system does not respect or reflect the strain that most publicans, their families and their businesses have been under, and how they have continually adapted and changed their working practices.

Today’s bitter blow will simply strengthen the widespread feeling that pubs and hospitality  is being made a scapegoat by the UK Government for the recent spread of the virus which has been shown to be occurring in other settings that the Government wishes not to shut down..

The situation is particularly hard for all wet-led pubs, for which Tier 2 now represents an additional level of inevitable lockdown.  Many of these pubs are the ones that operate at the very heart of their communities, providing companionship and social cohesion, and combating the recently rising problem of loneliness and isolation. This aspect of their service is especially valuable in the dark winter months, but this year that service will be missing. This in itself will have consequences, which must be weighed carefully in any decisions regarding the welfare of the population.

The Campaign for Pubs believes that all pubs across the United Kingdom should be able to open safely under the original guidelines, as they did from the 4th July, with sensible social distancing measures in place, and as was borne out by the low infection rates recorded in society before the large scale return to education and wider workplaces. However, with the new tiers announced today it is very clear that is not going to be the case, so now it is essential that the Government introduces a strong economic support package that supports our valuable hospitality sector and protects our pubs for the future, as well the jobs of their hardworking staff and those in the many businesses within the pub supply chain.

As part of the British Pub Confederation, we at Campaign for Pubs co-sponsored the petition which at the time of writing (just 48 hours after its launch) already has nearly 5000 signatures: www.change.org/p/uk-government-devolved-governments-administrations-saveourpubs-with-an-urgent-support-package-supportpubsnow

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.

Dawn Hopkins, Vice-Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of the Rose, Norwich  said:

“Today has been a devastating day for many publicans, their families, and their customers up and down the country. The majority of the UK’s publicans will be facing a very bleak Christmas, with many pubs not being able to open at all and those that do facing incredible restrictions for the foreseeable future.  All without any evidence or science to show this is the right thing to do.

“The UK Government MUST offer real support to our publicans now or it faces being the Government that made thousands of hospitality workers jobless, hundreds of publicans homeless and be forever known as the Government that destroyed The Great British Pub”.

Paul Crossman, Chair of the Campaign for Pub and a licensee in York said:

“The measures imposed today upon almost the whole of England will be catastrophic for an enormous number of pubs, unless the Government urgently fulfils its duty to put in place the level of support that is really needed. So we call on the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to wake up to this catastrophe and act to save the Great British pub and a key part of our nation’s identity and culture.

“The current grant levels are simply insufficient for any pub to meet the real costs of closure. Tier 3 is clearly a hospitality lockdown, but Tier 2 is also an effective lockdown for many of our most precious community pubs because so many do not serve food. Now pubs are denied precious trade at this key time of year, and their communities will be denied the ability to socialise in the regulated, COVID-”19-safe surroundings that publicans and their staff have worked so hard, and so successfully, to provide.

“Hope is fading for many of us who run such pubs, with few of us expecting to be able to reopen now until well into next year, once society has worked through the consequences of the Government’s plan to ease household and other restrictions over the festive period”.

ENDS 

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