England is entering another lockdown with many pubs and bars once again facing big financial losses and even closure.

Photograph: Unsplash/Annie Spratt

Venues have been ordered to close and, in bad news for brewers, can offer take-away food and drink, but not alcohol.

The hospitality industry is, understandably, renewing its demands for more government help, whether than be cash, VAT cuts, or a business rate holiday extension.

UKHospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “The government has to be clear about how it is going to make the best possible use of this time. It needs to be used effectively to provide a rapid and extensive rollout of the vaccine, and we need a clear exit strategy along with a road map for recovery and business support.

“The hospitality sector can assist in the rapid rollout of the vaccine and we are keen to repay the support shown to us. Our sector is sitting on well-ventilated, covid-secure spaces such as hotels, conference centres, pubs, and restaurants which can be used, and businesses are already coming forward to offer locations to expedite a mass vaccination programme.

Business failures

“It is also more important than ever that hospitality businesses, who were hit first and hardest by this crisis, are given another package of grants to keep businesses alive. This has to come alongside an extension of the VAT cut and business rates holiday, which were already urgently needed even before these further restrictions were announced.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “A third lockdown is yet another blow to our sector. Particularly after it has faced an abysmally quiet Christmas and New Year, which saw many pubs remain closed over what is meant to be their busiest time of the year.

“The announcement today adds to the woes of pubs as it shows they are a long way from re-opening properly. The road to recovery for the pub sector just got longer.  

“Given the circumstances, a wave of business failures is imminent unless a greater package of financial support from the government is given to secure pubs and the brewers that supply them. That means grants in line with those in the first lockdown, and support beyond April when the business rates holiday, lower VAT rates, and furlough scheme all end.”

Devastating blow

Phil Whitehead, managing director for Western Europe at Molson Coors Beverage Company, said: “While a third national lockdown is evidently necessary to keep people safe, the needless ban on alcohol take-away sales is another devastating blow for pubs, bars, and restaurants that impinges their ability to keep their businesses running.

“The next few months are going to be incredibly difficult for the hospitality sector and the government’s newly announced grant funding provides a much-needed lifeline. But this support must be extended, beyond just the frontline venues, to the vital supply chain they depend on.

“The UK brewing industry is the envy of the world because of its unrivalled variety — from large brewers offering household name brands to the thousands of craft and micro-breweries that make the sector such a rich tapestry.

“The pub and brewing sector employs almost 1 million people and plays a vital role in communities across the country, but unless action is taken committing to an extension of the 5% VAT rate to all drinks sold in pubs as well reducing beer duty rate, we risk losing large swathes of this essential ingredient of Britain’s unique hospitality culture.” 

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