Government turns its back on thousands of local community pubs

The Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign to promote, support and protect pubs, has responded to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s announcement in the summer statement that VAT will be cut to 5% for 6 months for food and accommodation and offer a midweek food voucher scheme, with no support at all of thousands of ‘wet-led’ community pubs up and down the country.  

The Campaign for Pubs have been campaigning for a 12-month VAT cut for all hospitality, so that all the nation’s pubs would be assisted through the current crisis. With trade restricted and uncertain due to the Covid-19 crisis, all pubs are facing reduced trade for months to come and many of the worst hit are smaller, community locals that don’t serve food – the very pubs excluded from any Government support today.  

The Chancellor also announced a midweek food voucher system, something that again does nothing to support wet-led pubs and will give a big advantage to pub chains that already serve food Monday to Wednesday, something many independent pubs simply can’t do.  

Sotoday’s announcements will be a boost to pub chains and large companies operating pub-restaurant chains but is another body blow for many independent pubs and licensees, already facing the double whammy of ongoing fixed costs with reduced trade and profit.  

Today’s announcement also shows that the Government is listening only to the voice of those representing pub and restaurant chains and the large pubcos and giant breweries and not to actual pubs and publicans, the very people who are having to deal with the Covid-19 crisis in their pubs on a day-to-day basis.    

The Campaign for Pubs exists to provide a real voice for pubs, bringing together publicans, customers and brewers and all who value our pub culture. The Campaign for Pubs has been formed precisely due to the lack of a real voice for pubs and publicans and to campaign for the needs of pubs and publicans, not the large property companies, big brewers and pub chains.  The Campaign for Pubs campaigns for a better, freer and fairer, more sustainable pub sector as laid out in the mission statement.  

Commenting, Campaign Director of the Campaign for Pubs, Greg Mulholland said: “The Chancellor’s announcement is very mixed news, what was needed was what the Campaign for Pubs have been calling for, a 5% VAT cut for all hospitality. Instead Rishi Sunak has decided to help only pubs that do food and overnight accommodation and has done nothing at all to help thousands of beloved community locals up and down the country, which is unfair. 

“The Government appears to be turning its back on the traditional community local, many can’t trade profitably due to Government restrictions and yet are being offered no support by the Government. We urge the Chancellor to think again, or we will see the closures of many valued pubs, including in his own constituency.  So we welcome the help for pubs serve food and offer bed and breakfast, but are dismayed at the lack of any support for all other pubs and we will now be lobbying the Government to help all pubs through the ongoing crisis, not just some of them”.  
 

Dawn Hopkins, Vice-Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of the Rose, Norwich (a wet-led pub) said: “There are thousands of community pubs up and down the country who are dismayed at today’s announcement. Wet-led pubs like mine, with restricted and reduced trade due to Government rules, have been given no support from the Government. In truth the Chancellor hasn’t tried to help pubs, he’s just decided to help tourism and whilst that is important, so are pubs in other areas and so is community and today the Chancellor has turned his back on many community locals. The message is that wet-led community pubs don’t matter and that is deeply upsetting when we’ve been working so hard to try to survive this crisis. We urge the Government to reconsider or many of our most beloved pubs will close their doors over the coming months”.  

Commenting, Paul Crossman, Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of 3 pubs in York said: “The measures announced today will be of little benefit to thousands of small-business wet-only pubs operating at the heart of their communities. Many small community pubs still cannot even open yet, and demand for those that can remains low in many areas as public confidence is seemingly yet to return. Wet-led community pubs serve a vital cultural and economic purpose and our communities and local independent supply chains desperately need them to survive for the future. Today’s announcements on VAT and midweek food vouchers will mainly provide a boost for pub chains and large companies operating pub restaurants, but will come as another blow for many independent pubs and licensees, who are already facing a calamitous double whammy of ongoing fixed costs, including rent, with reduced trade and profit. The midweek voucher scheme feels like an expensive, tokenistic gimmick.  

This money could and should have been invested in meaningful support for all pubs. It seems clear that once again the Government has listened only to the trade associations of large pub chains and not the real voice of grass-roots pubs and publicans, and this must change, or many proper pubs will not survive”.