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UK pub owners call for government support in all Tiers to avoid closures

Suban Abdulla
·5-min read
Under the “very high” alert level, pubs and bars will be ordered shut. Local leaders will also have discretionary powers to order other non-essential businesses to close. Photo: Getty
Under the “very high” alert level, pubs and bars will be ordered shut. Local leaders will also have discretionary powers to order other non-essential businesses to close. Photo: Getty

UK publicans have written a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson calling for a government support package for pubs in all Tiers to avoid closures and hardships.

The letter organised by grassroots organisation Campaign for Pubs, which represents pubs, publicans and pub-goers, coincides with the news that London and seven other areas are moving into the Tier 2 category.

It accuses the government of “completely hanging Tier 2 pubs out to dry” leaving them to trade “unprofitably with no support.”

On Wednesday, Johnson announced a new three tier ‘traffic light’ system to tackle the second-wave of COVID-19 cases and additional restrictions for Tier 2 and Tier 3, including the closure of wet-led pubs.

Businesses in the hospitality industry, including pubs, bars and restaurants are still subject to a 10pm curfew and can only provide table-service.

The traffic light system will “simplify and standardise” the existing patchwork of local lockdown rules, Johnson said in the Commons.

Each level — “medium,” “high,” and “very high” — involves escalating restrictions. Most areas in England will automatically move to the “medium” alert level, the PM said. This involves restricting people to socialising in groups of no more than six.

Under the “very high” alert level, pubs and bars will be ordered shut. Local leaders will also have discretionary powers to order other non-essential businesses to close.

Merseyside was placed in the “very high” alert level on Wednesday. Pubs, bars, gyms, leisure centres, casinos, and betting shops in the region were among the businesses told to shut.

Earlier this month the organisation accused chancellor Rishi Sunak of “scapegoating pubs” and “ignoring the needs of pubs, publicans, staff and their families” in his Winter Economy Plan.

Campaign director of the Campaign for Pubs Greg Mulholland, said: “It is deeply disappointing that the Government brought in yet more restrictions, but without consideration of the way these will decimate trade in pubs already struggling with reduced levels of trade.

“Pubs in Tier 2 areas are dismayed, as they are now subject to an effective ban on socialising, which basically means that pubs cannot trade normally at all.

“Yet the Government is offering no support, which is extraordinary and unacceptable. We urge them to wake up to the reality of the situation and introduce a meaningful, tiered package of support for pubs, otherwise we will see many closures and many families losing their livelihoods.”

The package calls for:

  • Access to same level of support as Tier 3 pubs for Tier 2 pubs, if trade is at a level where they cannot trade viably or if they take the decision that they need to close rather than make losses

  • Enhanced support for Tier 2 and 3 pubs, taking into account (a) fixed costs (rent/mortgage payments) and (b) separate to the grant, payments to cover the loss of stock from closure or restrictions and the cost of mothballing pubs then reopening them

  • 5% (or even better zero) VAT on all sales in pubs

  • A business rates holiday extension, with a complete overhaul for business rates for pubs prior to recommencing.

  • A statutory right to an immediate rent review for all pubs, to tackle “unreasonable rent levels,” amid government restrictions and reduced trade

READ MORE: Liverpool businesses ordered shut as 'traffic light' lockdown system confirmed

Campaign for Pubs also urges the government to “tackle the rent crisis facing many pubs.”

“Britain’s publicans feel completely ignored and betrayed by the Government. Their restrictions are making many pubs unviable, yet other than the meagre grants for Tier 3 pubs, which won’t even cover ongoing costs, there is no support at all. This will close pubs, see many jobs lost and will push publicans and their families into hardship,” Dawn Hopkins, vice-chair of the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of the Rose in Norwich said.

“Without further support, many publicans simply won’t get through the winter and that means a loss of jobs, livelihoods and the permanent loss of pubs and the fault will be the government’s, not COVID-19,” the letter concludes.

READ MORE: More than 1,000 UK publicans urge the government to rethink 10pm curfews

The UK’s hospitality industry has been beset by the coronavirus pandemic, leading to many closures, losses in revenue and job losses.

On Friday, the boss of JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L) criticised the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, as the pub chain announced its first annual loss in almost 40 years.

Wetherspoon blamed the performance on the coronavirus pandemic and the government’s response, saying lockdown and the 10pm curfew have had a devastating effect on business.

Tim Martin, chairman and founder of JD Wetherspoon, said the government had introduced “an ever-changing raft of ill-thought-out regulations” in recent months.

Meanwhile, pub chain Marston’s (MARS.L) and restaurant group Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) also announced sweeping job cuts this week.

More than 2,000 furloughed workers at Marston’s pubs are set to lose their jobs, as the company blamed new coronavirus restrictions for cutting staff numbers.

While, GBK was rescued from administration by Boparan Restaurant Group in a deal that will secure 35 sites and 669 jobs — 26 of GBK’s restaurants will still be shut and 362 jobs lost.

Watch: Why tax rises may be inevitable in Britain