More support needed from Government for pubs to survive

New licensee Simon Blaker at The Borough Arms pub.

Licensee Simon Blaker at The Borough Arms pub. - Credit: Archant

Publicans in Weston believe their pubs need more support from the Government in order to survive in 2021 and beyond. 

Pubs, bars and restaurants were once again forced to close to customers when the country went into its third national lockdown and are only open for takeaways. 

The Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign group representing pubs, publicans and pub-goers has issued an urgent plea to the UK and Scottish Governments to announce packages of support for all UK pubs, publicans and their families in England and Scotland.    

The group believes the levels of support for pubs are currently wholly inadequate, with pubs having already lost their trade for many months of last year, including the all-important December trade in many areas. Many publicans are already in considerable debt and already some pubs have closed.   

The Campaign for Pubs has been spearheading the #SupportPubsNOW campaign, with the support of ‘The Pub Landlord’ Al Murray, calling for an urgent package for pubs, brewers and other affected suppliers.

The #SupportPubsNOW petition has nearly 15,000 signatures and one-off top-up grants for closed businesses are £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under, £6,000 for those with a rateable between £15-51,000 and £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of more than £51,000. 

Licensee of The Borough Arms, Simon Blaker, told the Mercury that a lack of minister for hospitality means publicans ‘will never get a fair hearing within Government’. 

He said: “The loss of Christmas and new year trade has been massive, 97.2 per cent loss of earnings for November to New Year's Eve and 92 per cent for the year overall.    

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"The £4,000 grant is nowhere near enough as that’ll just cover the overheads still being accrued for around six to eight weeks.  

“If the Pubco’s, private landlords and suppliers we all have were to reduce or suspend charges while we aren’t allowed to trade then maybe we wouldn’t be in the position of needing to beg for handouts to survive.  

“Business rates haven’t worked fairly for a long time now and basing grants on revenue is not even close to being a sound bench mark for issuing of grants. 

“Licence fees should be suspended while we’re not allowed to trade as we are paying for a licence to sell alcohol despite not being allowed to. 

“The government has stated pubs can’t do takeaway alcohol as they don’t want people to be given the opportunity to purchase alcohol and then drink outside in a social environment. Surely the same could occur if you buy a four-pack form a supermarket, off licence or petrol station? 

“I could go on and on with the ill-informed decision-making process that’s happening regarding hospitality but as we don’t have a minister for hospitality, we will never get a fair hearing within government.” 

The Campaign for Pubs feels the current level of grant support is not enough to cover ongoing costs, especially rent, never mind support publicans and their families, so urgent action is needed to avoid mass pub closures and hardship. There also needs to be support for small brewers and other suppliers whose businesses are threatened due to pubs being closed.   

Frank Sprackman of the Walnut Tree said 2020 was ‘a tough year’. 

He told the Mercury: “It’s been extremely tough with very little support from Government and places like Just Eat who are a huge platform take a huge cut from the small amount we get off customers.  

“But our view has been that we’ve kept the customers with our good food especially our Sunday roast dinners and it’s saved us going insane being completely closed.  

“It’s been a tough year and being closed for the majority of it and of course missing our peak time of Christmas. Hospitality have always followed all the guidelines." 

To sign the #SupportPubsNOW petition, log on to www.change.org/p/uk-government-devolved-governments-administrations-saveourpubs-with-an-urgent-support-package-supportpubsnow 

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