The government has introduced a three-tier system for managing its covid response, which will see pubs and bars closed at the top level.

Liverpool will take on that status from this Wednesday, with pub licensees and brewers again thrown into doubt about their long-term future.

Prime minister, Boris Johnson, said: “We don’t want to go back to a national lockdown, but we don’t want to let the virus let rip. But we must act to save lives and change our behaviour by restricting access between us.”

There’s a strong feeling that pub landlords are being, in the words of the Campaign for Real Ale, “scapegoated”, despite being some of the most responsible venues.

The Campaign for Pubs shared this on its Facebook page today:

CAMRA’s chief executive, Tom Stainer, said: “Pub-goers understand the need to tackle the virus, but today’s announcement has exacerbated the feeling that pubs have become a scapegoat for the pandemic. 

“In Merseyside, pubs are being forced to close whilst similar businesses like restaurants are allowed to stay open. This is despite the fact publicans have done everything asked of them to make their venues covid-secure. 

“In the rest of the country, with medium and high alert levels, pubs face severely reduced trade as a result of the government undermining consumer confidence. 

“Whilst measures announced by the Chancellor last week to help pubs forced to closed are necessary, those pubs that are allowed to stay open are at risk too. A quarter of pubs say they are at risk of going under by Christmas. That’s why 180,000 CAMRA members across the country are being asked to email their MPs today to demand a financial support package to save pubs from extinction. 

“This is a make or break moment for British beer and pubs as we know them. We desperately need a proper sector support package to help pubs and breweries at all alert levels with costs they are struggling to meet — or we risk losing our locals altogether.”

Ian Foozard, chairman of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), said: “Small independent breweries have been running on empty for months, and these new local lockdown measures, without proper financial support, will lead to more job losses and further business closures. 

“Brewery sales have collapsed because of the uncertainty of further restrictions, as pubs fear they will be closed. While pubs that are legally closed are being offered financial support, this does not seem to apply to small breweries that will lose more than 80% of their sales. 

“We need a comprehensive package of support, including the extension of the Job Retention Scheme to breweries before it is too late to save our small independent brewers.”

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The British Beer and Pub Association points out that pubs and hospitality venues represent just 3% of total covid transmissions, according to Public Health England.

It says that, based on this evidence, pubs and bars should not be singled out for closure, especially as they are well regulated, adhering to all safety measures including table service only and the rule of six, and are fully participating in NHS test and trace. It has consistently expressed concern that if pubs are forced to close, people will socialise in unregulated and unsafe environments, even if told to avoid other households.  

It also says a stronger financial package of support than that announced by the chancellor on Friday will be needed. According to the BBPA, the cash grants for businesses required to close in local lockdowns, worth up to £3,000 a month, will not be sufficient to cover high fixed costs and losses incurred during closure, especially compared to the support given in the full national lockdown earlier this year.  

It also said this support would need to be available to those pubs facing additional restrictions under tier two of the government’s new local lockdown system. It said it believed that support would only be given to those pubs forced to close as part of tier three, even though there would be thousands of pubs in tier two with unviable businesses if households were prevented from meeting inside them on top of the existing restrictions. 

The BBPA also stated it has major concerns that many businesses may not be able to access the support due to state aid caps. Likewise, it says more regular reviews of the local lockdowns will be needed than one a month, calling for reviews every two weeks.  

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “Singling out pubs for closure and further restrictions is simply the wrong decision and grossly unfair. It’s why we are calling for a proportionate response to the virus, based on tangible transmission evidence.”

She added: ““If regions across England do go into lockdown, then they will need to be reviewed far more frequently than once a month. Reviewing the lockdowns at least every two weeks would give closed pubs a glimmer of hope that they can return back to trade sooner than later.” 


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