Along with other industry leaders, St Austell Brewery chief executive, Kevin Georgel, has written to Boris Johnson to urge him to step up and support the pub industry.

Kevin Georgel
St Austell Brewery chief executive, Kevin Georgel

The letter explains that the pub is part of our social fabric — far more than just a huge economic contributor. It adds that the avoidable loss of these wonderful, historic, community assets will be felt by generations to comes if the government doesn’t act now and provide clarity.

The full text of the letter can be read here, via St Austell Brewery’s Facebook account.

There is little doubt that life is Britain is not going to start to return to normal until the government is very sure that it can avoid having to stage another lockdown. And when our world does open up again, hospitality will be the last to return.

Hospitality businesses have nothing against care being taken that re-oening doesn’t take place before it is absolutely safe to to so. There have been so many deaths that goes without saying. But they will be looking forward to opening as broadly as possible. The ‘Alfreso Spring’ has been mooted, with venues able to provide service in outdoor space, but not all pubs and bars have access to such areas.

Deliveroo and many of its restauarant partners are calling on chancellor Rishi Sunak to bring back Eat Out to Help Out. There’s likely to be no news of whether this will be considered until the Budget, on 3rd March.

JD Wetherspoon boss, Tim Martin, wants hospitality to open at the same time as non-essential retail, but there seems little chance of that, the Alfresco Spring idea aside.

A roadmap, but not a timetable

But there’s not just re-opening to think about. It’s not a question that doors open and everything returns to normal. It will take businesses ages to recoup losses — if they ever do. Various groups are campaigning for:

  • A VAT rate of 5% to stay in place for hospitality for another year, and for this to be extended to on-trade beer so wet-led pubs can benefit.
  • Preferential rates of beer duty in pubs.
  • A continuation of the business rates holiday until at least 2022.

It looks like we will have to wait until next Monday for solid measures to be set out. But brewers and publicans will need as much notice as possible ahead of re-opening time. You can’t just pick up where you left off straight away. Some brewers are not producing the cask beer they normally would be at the moment for fear of it going off. The industry needs certainty, and it needs it next Monday.

Important to remember, though, that the 22nd is slated for a roadmap out of covid, and not a timetable. We should have a better idea of the new few months, but the prime minister has learnt that undue optimism can come back to haunt him.

Let me know your hopes for hospitality post-lockdown and how you think the government should handle the next few weeks. Should we have partial opening of licensed premises — that Alfresco Spring — or wait until all hospitality can open without restrictions? And what will be the trends in this new world?

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