The public were yesterday (16 March) advised by Government and health experts to stop any unnecessary human-to-human contact, including visiting the pub, but stopped short of forcing the trade to close and preventing operators from seeking any form of respite from insurers.
Concerned publicans voiced their frustrations and fears over the move, which UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls said was “catastrophic” for businesses and jobs.
Today, it is expected Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will outline additional financial support for businesses on top of the £1.2bn he set out in his 11 March Budget.
However, footfall across the sector has plummeted and operators have growing fears over paying rents and are questioning what support they will receive from pubcos.
Magic money tree
In response to a story following the Prime Minister’s latest advice, operator Mark Goodman commented on Facebook: “All very well and good The Morning Advertiser quoting chief executives that have a salary coming at the end of the month.
“How about finding out what the, suspiciously silent, pubco bosses are going to do. We all need a magic money tree to find the rent yet the silence is deafening!”
Donny McIntyre, another licensee, added: “The answers need to be sooner rather than later – cash flow is key to survival – we are all in this together. If pubs fold in these circumstances, there ain’t going to be a queue of new licencees looking to take them over – we need a rent/lease amnesty until this mess is over.”
The Morning Advertiser is asking how the major pubcos are planning to help tenants and licensees during the coronavirus and will report shortly.
Despite the difficult situation, some operators are maintaining a positive approach, as Cornwall licensee Amy Durnall said on Facebook: “This is an awful time for us but we are trying to stay positive.”
We cannot give up
Durnall continued: “We are open, limited hours and after a kitchen refurb, food from next week but limited. We cannot give up. We must keep going to help our economy from crashing.
“We have our dedicated locals including an 85-year-old, ex-farmer who is refusing self-isolation. We have to be there and open for our rural community. Unless me or Ian get [the virus], we will be open.”
Meanwhile, British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin sent a letter the Prime Minister last night stating in no uncertain terms the sector would be lost in days without immediate and decisive action.
The letter called for specific measures to be put in place to help the sector survive.