Business leaders in the pub and beer industries are urging the government to provide a reopening date after repeated warnings that many venues won’t survive.
After the latest figures showed that pubs lost 5%% of their sales, worth £7.8 billion, in 2020 due to varying lockdown restrictions, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) says a “roadmap to recovery” is needed.
The government has insisted that it has a plan for easing lockdown restrictions, and will reveal it after 22 February. But industry leaders say business owners and landlords need answers now.
Philip Whitehead, chairman of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “After nearly a whole year under forced closure, or open but under severe restrictions, pub trade has been decimated and sales of beer in pubs have plummeted. Furthermore, due to their revenue falling off a cliff in 2020, pubs are holding debt and have little to no cash left.
“We need the government to continue to provide financial support for pubs when they reopen to bridge the gap to full recovery.”
Nick Mackenzie, boss of brewer and pub giant Greene King, said “there is a real risk of more viable businesses closing their doors in the weeks and months ahead” without a clear plan and further support.
There is growing concern that even the reopening of non-essential places will not be enough to save thousands of pubs across the UK. The industry lost 96% of its sales during the first lockdown, and even during the summer when restrictions were at their loosest and the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme was in place, sales were down 27% on the same period in 2019.
A government spokesperson said: “We will set out our plan for reopening schools and, gradually, the economy in the week of 22 February. Ministers regularly engage with the sector to understand their concerns and discuss how the sector can restart when it is safe to do so.
“We have put in place one of the most comprehensive and generous packages of business support in the world worth £280 billion. This includes a new one-off grant worth up to £9,000, VAT relief, various loan schemes, a business rates holiday as well as the extended furlough scheme.”