The UK Government has turned its back on pubs

Licensees have accused the Chancellor of turning their back on pubs and publicans and have warned that many pubs will close without support, support that did not materialise today.    

The Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign to promote, support and protect pubs has expressed the dismay of thousand of UK pubs and publicans at the complete lack of support for thousands of pubs in the Chancellor’s statement today.

Pubs represent the most iconic and unique sector of UK hospitality, yet despite claiming to “help hospitality”, the Chancellor today provided no support at all to many pubs, despite the fact that pubs are currently reeling from the announcements of 6 month extra restrictions including a 10pm curfew, which will increase costs while reducing trade, rendering many pubs unprofitable.

The Chancellor extended the 5% VAT rate for eating out and accommodation, which is some help to those pubs that also serve food and inns that offer bed and breakfast, however for thousands of small business wet-led pubs, including many iconic community locals, micropubs and taprooms, this was no help at all. Meanwhile, the Campaign notes, huge fast-food and restaurant chains, including the likes of McDonalds and KFC, once again received a huge boost.

The Chancellor also announced the new Job Support Scheme, but this too is of limited or no benefit to many pubs. Some pubs have no staff (especially at the moment, with trade so reduced). Many tenant and freehold landlords are now running pubs entirely on their own, or just with their families, just to get through the Covid crisis. Even for pubs that do have staff, the problem now is in fact the need for more staff in spite of reduced revenue, so the scheme will be of no help at all with that burden.

The Government imposed restrictions that have come in today – 10pm curfew and mandatory table service – mean both reduced trade and additional costs for pubs – meaning many pubs already facing reduced trade due to the Covid-19 crisis become loss-making. It was hoped the Chancellor would realise and acknowledge this, yet instead wet-led pubs received nothing and even many pubs that serve food, will not receive anything like sufficient benefit to cover the impact of the new restrictions.

Many pubs, especially in towns and city centres, are reliant on trade at weekends up to midnight or 1am, and without busy Fridays and Saturdays they are unprofitable, so the recent imposition of the 10pm curfew was a huge blow. The further requirement for table service only (which also puts publicans and staff at greater risk than service behind a screened bar) means that in all but the very smallest pubs, extra staff are needed, due to it not being possible for one member of staff to serve tables, the way it is to serve behind the bar.

Pubs were expecting help today to deal with these issues, but it was not forthcoming, and now the livelihoods of thousands of people are under severe threat. Furthermore communities everywhere now face the permanent closure of thousands of pubs, something which irrevocably and disastrously change the face of this country, its villages, towns and cities.

The Campaign for Pubs is now asking members and licensees up and down the country to write to their own MP to call for support to support and save pubs – and urge the Government to wake up and act before many pubs are threatened.

Commenting, Greg Mulholland, Campaign Director of the Campaign for Pubs said:

“Today the Government turned its back on thousands of valued community pubs & thousands of hardworking publicans. Despite claiming to want to help hospitality, the Chancellor offered no help to thousands of pubs that are so important to their local communities, despite the Government imposed restrictions leading to a huge loss of trade.

Without urgent support for wet-led pubs, the Government will be directly responsible for closures of many valued pubs & the destruction of our pub culture, so we ask the Chancellor to think again and support pubs through this crisis”.

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

The Government has now made it clear that it is simply going to be a case of sink or swim for our pubs and our staff as we all approach a long winter with increased costs and vastly reduced trade.

Thousands of pubs will not make it through without further support to offset the recent measures, and their loss will be a shattering cultural and economic blow to communities everywhere, not to mention the publicans themselves and their families.

Most pubs could be supported through this crisis with a relatively modest investment from Government, accompanied by other measures such as curbs on unreasonable continuing rent demands.

It would be an investment that would be quickly repaid many times over, once people could (and definitely would) flock back to their precious locals in enormous numbers to celebrate the eventual passing of this crisis.

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

“The Chancellor and the Government have simply ignored the needs of many thousands of publicans and their families. It’s so unfair for the Government to impose rules that mean many pubs cannot trade profitably, then do nothing to support and compensate these pubs. Without support, the future of thousands of pubs is at stake but this also represents the future for thousands of UK families. Until the Government announces measures to support pubs and publicans, their claim to help people and businesses through this crisis will ring very hollow to the nation’s licenses and pub staff”.