As if times weren’t bad enough, the pub sector is suffering from delays in payment of approved grant support from local authorities.
Pubs campaigner Dave Mountford
Initial grants last spring were distributed relatively promptly, with a third of allocations made within two weeks. But those due at the end of 2020 were showing signs of serious slippage.
Of the pubs eligible for the November grant, only two out of ten were paid within two weeks, according to a survey by the Forum of British Pubs. A further four out of ten were kept waiting for up to four weeks.
By December, there had been further slippage, with less than half the payments actually having been paid by the first week in January.
This matched the delays in distributing the £1,000 booster grant, with 49% of respondents reporting that the payment was still outstanding.
A bigger concern still was that of the 529 pubs involved in the survey, more than two-thirds reported that the grants covered less than half of their running costs during the lockdown period. Only one in 20 said the money covered between 75% and 100% of their costs.
‘Many pubs will struggle to re-open’
The way the grants were calculated also came under serious question in the survey, with three-quarters of pubs saying that linking the amounts payable to business rates was not a good way of calculating what was appropriate.
Forum spokesperson, Dave Mountford, a pub owner himself who is still waiting for his December payment, said: “Our pub sector has fundamentally had to rely on the government-agreed subsidies simply to stay in business, with many finding that even with the grants they will struggle to re-open as their costs have been materially more than the amounts they have received.
“The delays that have been experienced in receiving the grant support, though, has made the position much worse. Some landlords have still been demanding rental payments, and the basic costs of just keeping the future of their pubs viable has meant that the delays have exacerbated the strain on their cashflows.
“We are appealing to local authorities to do all they can to speed up their processes.”
• The British Beer & Pub Association says that three in four wet-led pubs (74%) are still yet to receive their Christmas grant promised to them by the prime minister at the beginning of December.
It is urging Boris Johnson to personally intervene to ensure his promise of the £1,000 grant for pubs, as well as the Local Restrictions Support Grants made to support pubs through the tier systems and last lockdown, are delivered immediately.
It is also asking that the government and local authorities work more closely together to ensure future grants are delivered to pubs at pace.