Responding to the new national lockdown in England and the announcement for grants of up to £9,000 for hospitality businesses, CAMRA Chairman Nik Antona said:
“The national lockdown is yet another devastating blow for an already struggling industry, which follows hot on the heels of nearly a year of restrictions, curfews and forced closures.
“It is clear now more than ever that the Government must introduce a new, long-term and sector-specific financial support package to help these businesses survive the coming months. While one-off grant support is welcome, it is nowhere near enough to cover the haemorrhaging costs for pubs and breweries that don’t see any end in sight.
“What is particularly concerning in the latest announcement has been the confusion around whether pubs will be able to operate on a level playing field with supermarkets and off licences during this lockdown – as they have been able to previously. Takeaway sales, in sealed containers, for people to take home, were a real lifeline for the trade in previous lockdowns and restricting that route to market now would be a death knell for many pubs. This will once again provide an unfair advantage to supermarkets and off-licenses that don’t face similar restrictions.
“The Government must recognise that local pubs are a force for good and play an important role in bringing people together, tackling loneliness and social isolation, and supporting their local communities. When this nightmare is over, they will be vital to the nation’s healing process – so long as they are still standing.
“A new, dedicated and decent financial support package must reach our pubs and breweries quickly to save them from permanent closure and help hard-working licensees through this incredibly difficult time.”
This morning (5th January 2021), we’ve written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to seek urgent clarification and assurances for licensees that they will able to operate on a level playing field during the latest lockdown in England, and to ask that brewers and cider makers also receive grant support. Read the letter below:
Dear Mr Sharma,
I am writing from CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, to seek urgent clarification and assurances for consumers and licensees across England that pubs and social clubs will be able to operate on a level playing field with supermarkets and off-licences during this latest lockdown.
This lockdown is necessary, and everyone must do what they can to stop the spread of Coronavirus. Publicans in England are ready to do this, as they have done twice before, and will continue to help the local response in their communities.
However, pubs and hospitality venues must be allowed to operate on a level playing field with supermarkets and off-licences. Just a few months ago, the Government made temporary alterations to premises licences, allowing pubs to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises, on a level playing field with supermarkets and off-licences. This move was welcomed by industry groups and consumers and was touted by Government at the time to allow some trade to continue.
The latest regulations and guidance appear to restrict pubs from selling any alcohol, except through delivery services, which is not a viable option for most licensees. This is grossly unfair and the latest in a series of measures that have restricted hospitality businesses, while handing an advantage to large supermarkets at the expenses of small, community businesses.
Please urgently clarify that hospitality businesses will be able to operate as off-licences, on a level playing field with supermarkets, selling alcohol in sealed containers for consumers to take home.
Underlying all of this is the need for an adequate, dedicated financial support package that must reach publicans, and brewers and other supply chain producers, as soon as possible.
One-off grant support announced this morning is welcome, but with hospitality businesses facing an indefinite closure period, this will not provide the certainty of adequate ongoing support to safeguard businesses and jobs. It is also unclear as to whether brewers and cider producers will be able to access the funding – please urge Department and Treasury colleagues to confirm that they will as soon as possible. As well as grant funding, the support package must include an extension of the VAT cut to include alcoholic drinks to support wet-led pubs, and it is essential that the business rates holiday for all hospitality businesses is continued for 2021/2022.
Pubs and social clubs will be a central part of the recovery from the pandemic – both for the mental and social wellbeing of communities and for the economy, but this will not happen if hardworking licensees cannot afford to open their doors again on the other side of this lockdown, whenever that may be.
As always, CAMRA, our members and beer and pub lovers across the UK want to support our community pubs, social clubs and the wider hospitality sector when it can reopen again.
Please ensure that licensees are treated fairly, and that a proper business support package is in place so that everyone will have a local to return to when it is safe to do so.