Campaign for Pubs

The Campaign for Pubs writes to the Prime Minister urging that the Government follows the science and provides support to pubs before making any decisions on Covid pub closures

The Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign to promote, support and protect pubs has written to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, asking for assurances that any decision to close pubs will be made only on the basis of clear science and would involve a comprehensive support strategy for publicans and their families.

The Campaign for Pubs letter is responding to speculation in the media about the possibility of another mass closure of pubs and has called on the Government to only make any such decision on the basis that it has been scientifically proven that well-run pubs are causing more of a problem than other businesses and gatherings. The letter also states that if there is compelling evidence that necessitates the closure of all pubs, or indeed any other sector of the economy, then the Government should share that evidence and be specific on the end point or scenario to return to normal operation.

Otherwise, the Campaign for Pubs believes the focus should be to better monitor compliance with the current rules and guidelines. The Campaign for Pubs believes that the majority of pubs, publicans and pub-goers are socially responsible and are compliant with social distancing and other Covid-19 safety measures. As the letter states, pubs are operating in this ‘new normal’ and despite the challenges and reduced trade, are managing to do so.

The letter also urges the Government to factor in the devastating impact of a second closure on pubs, brewers and other suppliers. The sudden closure of pubs in March caused a huge problem for pubs and breweries and the short notice prevented proper planning, so that an enormous amount of beer and other stock had to be thrown away. The reality of closing pubs and the effect on these businesses and those who run them (and on brewers and suppliers) must be properly considered as part of any decision to close pubs for a second time, including an understanding that it would mean more stock disposals and a repeat of the problems of re-stocking and reopening. These issues would need to be factored into a support package for pubs in the event of any such closure.

The letter emphases how many people up and down the country work in and are reliant on income from the pub sector, with the livelihoods of several million people, including the children of those who actually run or work in pubs, being dependent on the sector being open. Pubs are also hugely important of to local communities and economies, as well as the national economy and tourism, but also are important for avoiding social isolation for some people. As with all decisions around how best to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, the impact of business closure and loss of jobs and livelihoods, and the further consequences of this, must be considered.

As it is, pubs struggling with reduced demand and reduced capacity already need more support, especially those that were excluded from the previous round of grants and other packages. The VAT reduction and Eat Out to Help Out scheme are both helpful to pubs that serve food, but neither of these support packages helps the thousands of community pubs that serve drinks only. These pubs generally operate at the very heart of their local community and are the very pubs now most in need of support and, reportedly, now most under threat of a second enforced closure.

The letter also points out that many such wet-led pubs have yet to find a way to reopen in the first place, due to issues arising from size or layout. The current rumours regarding another impending closure are now making it even more difficult for their operators to plan any kind of reopening while this new uncertainty continues.

The letter finishes by saying to the Prime Minister, “As someone who has previously expressed support for pubs and our unique pub culture, we hope you will consider this in any decision-making”.

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

“It is of course vital for all of us to change our behaviour to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19, and the vast majority of pubs and publicans have taken this responsibility very seriously, but any decision to actually close pubs must take into account the devastating impact this would have on many lives and many communities. Most of our vital local community pubs are run by individuals, families and small businesses, some of whom have not even found a viable way to reopen yet. The current uncertainty is making that decision even more difficult. Any further closures will inevitably cause real hardship and lead to many pubs closing permanently, unless the decision is backed by a comprehensive support package for pubs, publicans, pub staff and their families”.

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

“Further pub shutdowns would be devastating. The majority of publicans are working very hard, and many in conjunction with their local Environmental Health Officers, to create safe spaces for their customers, but the whole industry would suffer irreparable damage if pubs were forced to shut down again. We need to be tougher on the people not following the rules, not just in pubs but in all businesses and public places, and if decisions are made to shut down our industry once again then we need to ensure that support is in place. Not just us, but our families, staff & suppliers need our pubs, our customers need our pubs & our economy need our pubs”.

Gary Murphy, Campaign for Pubs PCA Coordinator and licensee of the Olde Mitre Inne in High Barnet said:

“The majority of licensees are working hard to make their premises safe places to be. Publicans can and do control the behaviour in their pubs, their livelihoods depend on it. Picking on pubs will simply move gatherings to other places where there will be little or no supervision. So rather than unfairly singling out pubs, let’s make sure all businesses are safe places like the vast majority of pubs”.

Commenting, Phil Saltonstall, Brewer Coordinator for the Campaign for Pubs and MD of Brass Castle Brewery said:

“Brewers and publicans are working extremely hard to make their businesses safe and compliant with Government rules and guidelines. Any decision to close pubs, even for a couple of weeks, causes complete disruption of the supply chain and brewers of draught beer can only brew if they know their market will be there when the beer is ready to deliver. So before making any kneejerk decisions, the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments need to understand the reality of closing pubs and compensate businesses accordingly, if they choose to do so”.