Kevin Georgel, chief executive of St Austell Brewery, in Cornwall, on the roadmap, his team, and looking forward to that pub pint.
Yesterday’s government announcement has provided us with some much-needed clarity on the roadmap out of lockdown. It was confirmed that — all being well at each stage of the roadmap — we’ll be able to open some pub gardens from 12th April, and provide indoor service in all of our pubs from 17th May.
We also welcome the government’s decision to remove some of the restrictions that prevented us from being able to operate viably in the latter half of last year, namely the 10pm curfew and the substantial meal rule, which were based on very little scientific evidence. This will allow us to focus on the most important thing: welcoming back our guests and providing them with the very best experiences.
All of this being said, the reality is that many pubs will not be able to hold out until April or May without vital financial support. Many pubs — those with little or no outside space — will not be able to reopen until May regardless of the government making it legal to do so. It simply won’t be commercially sustainable for them. As a business, we are currently working through this ourselves to see how many of our managed pubs it will be feasible for us to reopen under these circumstances.
According to the British Beer & Pub Association, three in five pubs across the UK will have to remain closed until May at the earliest under these regulations. That’s 29,000 businesses and a £1.5 billion cost to our sector. Those who do try to re-open with outdoor service only will also need support — they’ll have to contend with unpredictable British weather on top of limited capacity. Ultimately, many of our Great British pubs — part of our nation’s social fabric — will end up closing their doors for good unless the government now step in.
Ahead of next week’s Budget, we’re calling on the chancellor to extend support for hospitality, until such a time when we’re able to trade viably, supporting the nation’s economic recovery in the process. This crucial support includes:
- An extension of business rates holiday for 12 months
- An extended cut in VAT for 12 months
- A significant cut in beer duty — UK beer drinkers pay 11 times more than those in both Germany and Spain.
- The extension of furlough to protect jobs, until we emerge from lockdown in June
‘Our sector shouldn’t be pushed to the back of the queue’
The government’s vaccination programme has been an extraordinary success and we’re very proud to say that some of our furloughed team members have been supporting the national effort, by volunteering as vaccination stewards. However, in light of how successfully it’s been rolled out, we were extremely disappointed to hear the news that hospitality will not be able to open in line with other parts of the economy, such as non-essential retail. We strongly believe, given the opportunity, that hospitality should play a vital role in both our economic and social recovery. Our sector shouldn’t be pushed to the back of the queue once again. As always, St Austell Brewery stands ready to re-open our pubs responsibly — providing a safe environment for our teams and our guests.
Focusing on the positives, all limits on social contact will be removed on 21st June according to the roadmap, which would be joyful news for communities across the West Country and beyond. Pubs play such a huge part in our culture and contribute hugely to our social wellbeing. We will finally be able to come together, meet with friends and family, eat delicious food, drink great beer, smile, laugh, reminisce, and enjoy British summertime. I for one can’t wait for this day to arrive…
These remain extremely difficult times for hospitality — the likes of which we’ve never seen before — but the end is now clearly in sight. We have our fingers firmly crossed for good news at next week’s Budget. Here’s hoping that our wonderful industry gets the support it so desperately needs and deserves.
As always, I’d like to say a huge thanks to our teams across the business for their ongoing support — those who have continued to work throughout lockdown and those on furlough. We recognise that this third lockdown has been tough — particularly on people’s mental health — and we’re incredibly proud of how we’ve come through this crisis together. We will certainly be stronger on the other side of this. Our fantastic tenants have also been working hard — many running successful take-away services and continuing to play an important role in their local communities, despite their doors remaining closed.
To our guests — we’ve missed you all and can’t wait to welcome you back to one of our pubs, whether you’re a local or planning to visit us in the beautiful West Country this summer. In the meantime, please stay safe and look after yourself and your loved ones.