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Pubcos – what support are pubcos giving to help licensees?

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Help provided: pubcos of varying sizes have revealed the support they are giving
Help provided: pubcos of varying sizes have revealed the support they are giving

Related tags: Coronavirus

Small and large pub companies have announced the measures to support licensees while the Covid-19 pandemic continues. This live report outlines the help businesses have revealed.

20 March, 12.36 – Fuller's delays commercial rent

Fuller, Smith & Turner has announced it is helping its tenants by suspending commercial rent for the time being, with this being reviewed as the situation progresses.

A spokesperson for Fuller's said: "It is imperative we help our tenants through these unprecedented times .

"To end that, we have suspended all commercial rent for the time being and we will review this as the situation progresses.

"We want to make sure that when this is all over, our tenants are in a good position to get their pubs back to full strength.

"To that end, we are working with the British Institute of Innkeeping to ensure they can access any additional relevant Government support to help with their cash flow and with other partners to protecting their emotional wellbeing too.

"In addition, we are communicating right across the estate, on a very regular bases. through our business development managers."

19 March, 14.30 – Shepherd Neame rent payments suspended

Kent-based operator Shepherd Neame has suspended rent payments from its operators from March 23 but as rents are payable weekly in arrears, this effectively means no rent will be paid from the date of the Prime Minister's announcement for the public to avoid pubs on Monday 16 March.

The business will review this on a weekly basis and it said it was looking into the grant process to see how it can support its licensees in claiming the grants.

In addition to this, Shepherd Neame also said it was cease all non-contractual capital expenditure in the brewery and pub estate for the foreseeable future; minimise all expenditure to the lowest level possible; all office staff moving to home working; the board of directors voluntarily agreeing to a 20% pay reduction; and cancellation of the interim dividend, which was pauable of 2 April 2020.

19 March. 13.53 – St Austell to defer rent for four weeks

South west-based St Austell Brewery is continuing to trade and has announced upcoming rent payments for tenants will be deferred for at least four weeks.

Chief executive Kevin Georgel said: "As we face the enormous challenge of responsing to this unprecedented and rapidly-moving situation, we are being extremely vigilant when it comes to keeping our teams and customers safe.

"To support pubs through this turbulent time, we are working closely with our licensees and adapting as best as we possibly can, to enable them to keep trading.

"The Government has put the hospitality industry in an incredibly difficult position.

"We are taking a leading role in lobbying the Government and seeking urgent clarification about what additional support we might be able to secure for our publicans and other pub companies across the UK.

"There are a number of options under consideration but the single biggest priority for Government at this stage is to urgently protect the employment of thousands of people working in pubs across the UK.

"From a financial perspective, we are taking appropriate measures to significantly reduce cost, optimise working capital and protect our financial position.

"We have a very strong balance sheet, supported by predominantly freehold estate.

"We are monitoring this rapidly-evolving situation around the clock and will continue to respond to ongoing instruction from the Government."

19 March, 10.25 – NewRiver ‘following Government advice’

NewRiver is ensuring adherence to the latest UK Government advice during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It said individual occupiers of its leased and tenanted model have control over whether sites remain open and the majority of its operator-managed pubs remain open and trading, although the business is currently assessing UK Government advice and will take all the necessary steps to ensure occupier and customer safety.

It added almost all its community pubs have a rateable value of less than £51,000 meaning they can take advantage of the measures announced by the Chancellor earlier this week (17 March).

The NewRiver board has also decided not to pay the fourth quarter dividend for the financial year ending 31 March 2020 to preserve cash.

19 March, 09.53 – Wadworth providing ‘at least’ four weeks of free rent

Brewer-operator Wadworth has announced a four-week rent-free period, with this being reviewed after that time.

Wadworth CEO Chris Welham said: “The Government's package of support is welcomed and particularly supports small business operators.

“We have supplemented this by providing at least four weeks, rent free, for our business partners and will review this in four weeks’ time.”

19 March, 07.03 – Young’s tenants to get three-month rent holiday

South-east pub company Young’s is informing its tenants they will get a ‘property’ rent holiday for three months, starting this week.

It is also focusing on protecting its staff and customers and supporting its tenants “during these uncertain times”.

It said it expects closure of some sites but, hopefully, for a short period of time and while this would impact earnings, this would, to some extent, be mitigated by Government relief on business rates.

It is intending to continue to trade its pubs and has introduced clear guidelines on social distancing and upholding the strictest health and hygiene measures to protect its teams and customers.

Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis said: “These are challenging and uncertain times and we must all come together to do the right thing during the peak period of Covid-19.

“We have a resilient business, underpinned by great people who we will support through this crisis.

“However, let’s be in doubt that with pub closures imminent, albeit hopefully for only a short period, all businesses in our sector will be severely impacted.

“We must remember, as painful as this will be, that it will be temporary and we look forward to welcoming all our customers back to our great pubs once we are through this. We remain confident in our strategy for the business.”

18 March, 17.53 – Star Pubs & Bars suspends rent collection

Star Pubs & Bars is suspending the collection of rent and associated charges from all its leased and tenanted pubs until at least the end of April.

Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens added: “To support pubs through this unprecedented situation, we continue to work with all our licensees, ready to adapt to the changing situation and ensure they are making full use of the additional support announced by the Government last night (17 March).

18 March, 17.24 – Marston’s: ‘not a one-size-fits-all solution’

A letter was sent to Marston’s tenants urging them to regularly check the Government website for advice and updates.

It said there was not a ‘one-size-fits-all solution’ but should a consumer downturn in the use of its pubs happen, it was ready to work with each individual affected.

It said each pub would be impacted differently, tenants should talk to their business development manager on a regular basis to discuss how they can work together to mitigate the impact.

The letter urged tenants to review the details of their insurance and discuss with their insurance provider if their policy covers this current situation.

Should operators need to self-isolate and close their business, Marston’s will support them during the cleaning and reopening their business, and it added tenants should contact their business development manager as a matter of urgency.

It also said should the business be closed through Government direction, the estates team will contact tenants to confirm suspension of rental payments and the mechanics of how it will work going forward. It again, urged tenants to contact their insurance company to discuss how their business interruption insurance can cover the ongoing costs to their business.

18 March, 16.34 – Punch Pubs & Co delays rent for two weeks

As of tomorrow (19 March) morning, Punch will defer the collection of rent, insurance, fixtures and fittings rental, pub care and licensing charges for at least 14 days.

In the event of a Government-enforced period of closure, Punch will offer sale or return for any full keg and cask stock that has been bought via Punch.

The pubco will also review the situation daily and timelines for Government support becomes clearer.

These measures have been designed to work in tandem with the package of Government support outlined by the Chancellor yesterday (17 March).

Punch added that there were clearly more questions to be answered and it was awaiting clarity on the specific processes and timescales for the different areas of financial support to be unlocked.

18 March, 15.38 – Wells & Co deferring rent for three months

Brewer and operator Wells & Co is deferring rent for a period of three months to its licensees to ease financial pressures.

The business is also looking into other measures it can offer to help its operators during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wells & Co managing director Peter Wells said: “It’s hard to remember a recent time that pubs have faced so much adversity and as such, we felt it was important to support our pub partners in a meaningful way.

“We wanted to move fast in offering reassurance and yesterday (17 March), spoke to our partners to let them know we will be deferring rent for a period of three months to help ease financial pressures.

“It has never been more important to come together and support the hospitality industry and for Wells & Co, the welfare of our employees and the financial security of our pub partners is our number one priority. We are working hard to investigate further measures to alleviate the ongoing situation.”

18 March, 14.16 – Admiral defers rent until April

Admiral Taverns is helping its licensees by deferring rent payments and associated non-beer charges until April to help during “incredibly difficult and unprecedented times” as part of its immediate plans.

It will also continue to liaise with trade organisations and call on the Government for support to the industry.

Admiral Taverns chief executive Chris Jowsey said: “We have been working through the latest Government advice and are putting plans in place wherever we can to support our licensees through these incredibly difficult and unprecedented times.

“In the immediate term, we have taken the decision to defer all rent and associated non-beer charges until April, to give our licensees time to apply for the relevant Government financial assistance that is being promised.

“We are liaising closely with our relevant trade bodies and will continue to press the Government to support the UK pub industry.”

18 March, 14.10 – Mitchells & Butlers ‘considering rent holidays’

Mitchells & Butlers is considering rent holidays and abatements to support its tenants during the turbulent period.

It also said it was continuing close conversations with its publicans, including asking them to tell them any particular areas they require support.

A spokesperson for the pubco said: “We have reached out to all our tenants, reassuring them we are prepared to help and will be able to provide the appropriate support to ensure they can continue trading during this period.

“Rent holidays and rent abatements are support measures we are considering. We remain in close contact with our tenants and have asked them to share specific areas where they are their business will need assistance.”

17 March, 18.48 – Robinsons grants 28 days rent free to licensees

Stockport-based business Robinsons Brewery is giving its operators a four-week rent-free period to help ease the burden of the impact of coronavirus.

Tenanted operations director Ben Robinson said: “In the midst of trying to understand how our licensees in England and Wales can easily access the extra funding and support announced, Robinsons Brewery has granted a four-week rent-free period for all licensees within its 260 family of pubs with immediate effect.

“During a time of unprecedented uncertainty for the hospitality industry, with 180 years’ experience, Robinsons recognises the challenges facing all areas of the business and is proud to support all licensees to ensure pubs continue to remain at the heart of local communities for many years to come.

“Undoubtedly, the initial Government approach on pub closures has caused concern for many customers and licensees.

“By announcing a rent-free, four-week period, the priority for Robinsons Brewery is to ensure licensees receive the financial support and guidance they need at a particularly turbulent time. The feedback from licensees to date has been overwhelmingly positive.”

17 March, 16.14 – Greene King delays rent collection

Greene King has informed tenants that rent collection and associated payments are delayed​ until further notice amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Managing director of the company’s Pub Partners arm Wayne Shurvinton told operators the business would delay charges of insurance, licensing and maintenance alongside rent collection for the foreseeable future in an email.

He also reassured operators the circumstances and the situation was being treated as Greene King’s “utmost priority”.

This made Greene King one of the first of the six biggest pubcos to relax billing, with others keeping quiet ahead of further Government announcements about the future of pubs.

17 March, 16.02 – Ei Group ‘will continue to press Government for support’

Pubco Ei Group has said it is working with various parties and following guidance during the coronavirus outbreak.

It added it will carry on asking for support from the Government to ensure the future of the trade is safe.

A spokesperson for Ei Publican Partnerships said: “We are in regular communication with our publicans as we work together to support their business as well as protecting customers and teams during this extraordinary time.

“We are also working with the trade associations following their guidance, as well as that issued by Public Health England, as the situation evolves.

“We will continue to press for Government support for pubs and bars to ensure hospitality is safeguarded for the future.”

Related topics: Health & safety, UnitedWeStand

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