A survey from the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) concludes that independent breweries have been left “high and dry” by the government, and if pubs are to open in July, as proposed, then a ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ is urgently needed.

The survey found that many are struggling financially as a result of coronavirus. Eighty-four per cent of respondents expect the pandemic and subsequent social distancing measures to have a lasting negative impact on their business, and 80% believe the government is not doing enough to support small breweries.

Ninety per cent of brewers surveyed think the large multinational brewers stand to increase their market share as a result covid-19, directly to the detriment of small independents. Competition on price, ‘soft loans’ tying down publicans to bland mass-market beer, and worries about buying choices of pubs are huge concerns for breweries around the UK.

Ninety-seven per cent of brewers stand ready to supply pubs by the proposed 4th July opening, but only if the Prime Minister offers a roadmap and guidance on social distancing imminently. Brewers need at least three weeks’ notice to open, says SIBA, and the clock is ticking.

The message to government on social distancing from brewers was clear: half of them think most pubs aren’t economically viable with social distancing at all, but a further 47% said they’re only viable at 1m of social distance. 

Community-owned pubs are bucking the national picture of closure during the lockdown by diversifying their services and helping those in need, according to the Plunkett Foundation.

Sixty-seven per cent of community pubs surveyed have carried on trading during the pandemic, and the charity is urging people to support their local community pubs now, and when the restrictions are eventually lifted.

beer in pub

There are now 116 community pubs trading across the UK, with over half of those who responded to a survey continuing to operate in some way, despite the forced closure. The charity says many have been laying on extra services specifically designed to help people in their locality receive the supplies they need during the lockdown.

Community pubs have been offering new support services, including prescriptions, food and produce deliveries, hot food deliveries and take-aways. In many cases community pubs have been building on their established reputations as local hubs by offering services to support the wellbeing of residents, with new innovations such as telephone helplines for those suffering from isolation.

Community pubs have also been supporting their tenants by providing reduced rents or rent holidays and keeping staff employed where possible, and furloughing them where not.

Admiral Taverns has launched an online support platform, Rising From Lockdown, to help licensees re-launch their pub businesses. The platform is laid out in two ways to maximise ease of use:  by weekly countdown, so licensees have a timely roadmap of recommended actions; and by operational area, such as property, retail offer, and marketing.

It includes a checklist for licensees to ensure they are complying with guidelines, a sample of licensee covid business risk assessments, a four-weekly operational plan, tips for the best way to tackle re-opening and free online workshops with industry partner Pub and Bar Academy.

Ei Group — now owned by Stonegate — has announced that its publican partners, in the leased and tenanted side of its business, will be getting a personal protective equipment (PPE) support package ahead of re-opening. Kits will include disposable masks and gloves, hand sanitiser, and rolls of floor tape.

And a parting shot from David McDowell, chief operating officer at BrewDog, on Facebook Live series HospoLIve. He had this to say about lessons learned from the pandemic: “The UK is the case study to be avoided by the entire planet. It’s sad to say that, but the communications and clarity and messages are just so difficult for the sector to understand. Thank God we’ve got great industry and trade bodies such as UKHospitality helping us navigate these hard times.”

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