Remember the 12 days of Christmas? Not this year. Just the one. Now Boxing Day is here and we enter a new series of tiers for, well, who knows how long?

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Down here in Cornwall we have moved up from level 1 to 2, so that’s my part-time job in my beloved wet-led pub out the window for the foreseeable. But I still consider myself fortunate. I can go and have a meal in another local, I can still support independent shops and brewers, and I can still still work off the Christmas pounds in the gym.

Plenty more areas are in the highest tier, 4, pretty much lockdown, with no review for a week or two. As ever, no hopsitality group is arguing with the science, but they are united in demanding that the sector gets more financial help from the government.

“Many more pubs, restaurants, bars, cafés and hotels, having invested so much to make their venues safe, are now looking at indefinite and total loss of trading,” says UKHospitlity chief executive, Kate Nicholls. “They need an immediate message that, at the very least, the 5% VAT rate and business rates holiday will remain throughout next year, supported by an urgent package of survival grants, so they can try to plan strategies to save their businesses.”

It’s difficult to disagree with a widely-held view that hospitality is being unfairly scapegoated in this new world. And now it’s not just the trade, it’s politicians coming out for pubs, too.

Last orders?

“Pubs are a vital part of Britain’s high streets,” says Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow minister for business and consumers. “They bring people together and help communities thrive.

“They’ve had the toughest of years as a result of the pandemic and, if the government doesn’t step up and put a proper support plan in place to secure their future, it will be last orders for many. Boris Johnson is failing our pubs. His glass-half-empty approach is a real threat to their future.”

Rick Bailey, charman of brewer and pub owner Daniel Thwaites, said: “Far from being the drinking dens of 50 years ago, community pubs are the biggest community outreach programme that this country has, provided free of charge by landlords and landladies the length and breadth of the country. It is, therefore, hugely distressing to see as we exit the second lockdown pubs have been targeted for special measures in the reshaped tier system that will lead to the inevitable failure of some of these precious community assets.”

CAMRA chairman, Nik Antona, said: “Pubs, clubs, and breweries have already been struggling to survive, having been singled out for additional restrictions under the tier system, without specific support to help them out. With even more areas of the country moving into tiers where the ability of hospitality businesses to make a living is severely curtailed — or closed down completely — it is even more important that a new, specific support package for pubs and brewers is launched. 

“The news that these restrictions will last until spring, and normality may not return until 2022, means that it is essential for the government to now step in to protect perfectly viable hospitality businesses that are struggling under unfair and unevidenced restrictions. This is the only way they can return to making a huge contribution to the economy and our communities as soon as possible.” 

Bleak outlook

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “The update on the virus and associated tier restrictions today is yet another blow to a sector already on its knees. It is clear that it is going to be the longest winter in living memory for Britain’s pubs and brewers. Unless there is a greater package of financial support from the government to secure our pubs and the brewers that supply them, a wave of business failures in the New Year is inevitable.

“We desperately need the prime minister to step up to the plate and commit to an enhanced package of measure for pubs and brewers. If the government acts now they can still secure pubs and jobs by giving locals in England the sort of support those in Wales and Scotland are getting. Without this the outlook is very bleak indeed.”

For the rest of this year, and into 2021, Beer Today will cotinue to highlight the battle to get all our pubs properly compensated and to see as many as possible re-open when the pandemic dies down. The best action comes when groups join together, so let’s have a united front, continually pressing the government to look after Britain’s pubs. Not just a community asset, after all (although that is so important), but also a great tourism asset when we welcome overseas visitors again, and we ourselves can take holidays with freedom around the UK.

The fight for Britain’s pubs isn’t over yet. Not by a long way.

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