A cross-party group of MPs has called on Britain’s largest pub landlord to cancel rents during the pandemic to ensure the industry survives.
The 60 MPs, including Conservative, Labour and SNP members, warned that many pubs would end up closing permanently if Ei Group did not offer its tenants substantial support.
Ei group has so far only offered to defer rent for thousands of its tenants for an as yet unknown period of time, leaving them with a bill reaching into the tens of thousands of pounds.
The letter, organised by Alicia Kearns MP (Rutland and Melton), Anthony Browne MP (South Cambridgeshire), and Stella Creasy MP (Walthamstow), calls for Ei to offer a rent holiday, or an equivalent level of support of some other kind, to all pubs in their group.
Anthony Browne said: “If Ei continue to hold this rent over the heads of our hard-working publicans, they risk turning a temporary crisis into a prolonged step back for one of Britain’s most beloved traditional industries.
“From the city centre to the smallest rural village, our pubs remain at the heart of the community. So many have already closed their doors for good, been redeveloped or simply sit empty. Britain would not be the same without these pubs. As MPs, we must make sure that these temporary closures do not become permanent.”
Alicia Kearns added: “Despite the uniquely devastating impact the pandemic has had on the pub industry, across the country publicans have stepped forward to join the national battle against Covid-19: from providing free meals to self-shielding individuals and NHS workers, to expanding their services to meet the needs of our communities.
“It is only right that Ei stand by their hard-working tenants at this time and offer meaningful support to our pubs, so they
can weather this storm and continue bringing our communities together when our country has healed.”
Stella Creasy said: “Across the country, many pubs are now in a fight for their survival, but without being able to re-open for customers they don’t have the income to pay the monies companies like Ei are demanding, except through getting into debt.
“As MPs from across Parliament and across the UK, we’re not prepared to see these vital local businesses in our constituencies being put out of business by short-sighted behaviour on the part of their landlords — and with 27,000 tenanted pubs on their books, this behaviour could see closures in every community.
“Given other major pub companies have pledged rent holiday to publicans, its time Ei Group stepped up and joined our fight to save our much-loved locals.”
The letter (to Ei Group chief executive, Simon Longbottom)
Dear Mr Longbottom,
RE: Ei Pubs — Proposed Rent Holiday
The current pandemic represents perhaps the greatest threat the pub industry has ever faced. We write as Members of Parliament deeply concerned about the future of pubs in our constituencies.
Pubs play a vital role in our communities, and during the Covid-19 crisis we have been heartened by our incredible publicans who across the country are providing free meals to vulnerable community members and offering important local services. We are determined to make sure that pubs can re-open after the crisis ends, and that the temporary closures do not become permanent.
These worries have been alleviated somewhat in recent weeks by Government support measures and the announcements of Adnams, Everards, Admiral Taverns, Timothy Taylor’s, Hall and Woodhouse, Robinson’s, Wadworth’s, and Palmer’s Brewery, among others, that they will be offering rent-free periods for their pubs during the Covid-19 lockdown. Similarly, we are heartened by the news that the Pub Code Adjudicator has indicated that all Code pub-owning businesses should announce plans to support pubs if they are not currently waiving rent.
However, we are dismayed that Ei Pub Company has not made any public undertaking to provide a rent-free period to its tenants and is instead simply deferring the rent to be paid off after the pandemic ends. This is despite being one of only five companies adhering to the Pub Code to not have announced measures. This will put many tenants deep in debt, making it financially more difficult for them to re-open. Ei is ignoring the normal guiding principle that pub rents reflect their profitability, and it is unfair of you to require tenants to take the entire financial burden of the lockdown.
We urgently call on you to offer a rent holiday, or an equivalent level of support of some other kind, to all pubs in your group. Supporting your tenants now will ensure they are still there after this crisis is over, and save you having to go through the administration and costs of finding alternative tenants.
We have all taken a great interest in making sure our local pubs owned by Ei get the support they deserve, and we will ensure that our constituents are not forgotten.
We look forward to working with you to resolve this matter at the earliest opportunity, and our shared endeavours to support Britain’s great pubs and publicans.