Small independent brewers have called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to ‘pay his £5 million bar tab’ as businesses devastated by lockdown measures continue to struggle.

Given the lack of government support and expected new regional lockdown measures, brewers can no longer afford to pick up the Treasury’s tab, says the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).

It’s estimated that 5 million pints of beer from small independent breweries were poured away during lockdown, and when pubs re-opened in the summer many global companies decided to replace beer for free, with small breweries expected by pubs to offer the same deal.

With most small breweries only being able to reclaim the duty on the beer, and then being expected to replace for free, brewers are now out of pocket by a £5 million, SIBA estimates.

New measures expected today could mean pubs are closed again, seeing hundreds of thousands of pints wasted once more. Speculation on the new measures is already seeing sales dry up, and the Job Support Scheme, announced last week, only includes businesses legally closed — not small breweries when beer sales fall off a cliff.

Small independent craft breweries have not received the same level of financial support as the wider hospitality sector

SIBA chairman, Ian Fozard, said: “Rishi’s bar bill is now well overdue, and with new regional lockdowns being threatened, how many more million pints will have to be dumped before urgent financial support is implemented for small brewers — or will they be expected to pick up the tab again?

“Local brewers have struggled through the covid crisis and haven’t received anywhere close to the support they need to survive. They had to pay for beer that ended up down the drain and were then expected to give free replacements; without help during another lockdown, some will have little choice but to give up brewing for good.”

Small independent craft breweries have not received the same level of financial support as the wider hospitality sector; they haven’t had access to the business rates holiday, hospitality grants, or the Job Support Scheme, despite 80% of their sales being lost when pubs were forced to close.

Even more worrying, says SIBA, is that when pubs were able to re-open, sales during July were just 50% of what small breweries would usually expect, leading to two small breweries a week closing over the summer.

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