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Councils disparate over awarding Government grants

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Long road ahead: Tom Stovold said he expects to change how his pubs are run when they reopen
Long road ahead: Tom Stovold said he expects to change how his pubs are run when they reopen

Related tags: Coronavirus

A multiple site operator has shared his “astonishingly” varied experience with different councils in accessing Government grants for pubs.

Founder of Revived Inns, Tom Stovold, oversees a number of pubs in Kent and Sussex, including the Rose Revived, Tonbridge; the Royal Oak, Newick; the Rainbow, Cooksbridge; the Royal Oak, Hawkhurst; the Red Lyon, Slinfold; and the Railway, Battle.

The pub company has had to place all of its staff into furlough.

With sites spread across a handful of different local authorities, the operator has found the difference between councils “astonishing” when it comes to the payment of Government grants.

While one council paid out a £10,000 grant over a fortnight ago, just a day after Stovold filled out the online form, others have lagged.

One council announced businesses would have to wait two weeks before they could even apply for the scheme.

The operator explained: “It’s a serious amount of money, we have two earmarked for the £25,000 grant – so they're holding on to £50,000. 

“We haven’t seen any money but we have been able to apply.

“We will get the money, it’s just ‘why are they sitting on it?’, ‘why haven't they prioritised it?’

“It’s blood into the system. We were turning over £50,000 a week and now it’s nothing.”

Pub trade bodies have criticised the slow approach from some councils, urging them to act swiftly to help pubs with immediate cash flow issues.

Bills to pay

Pubs with a rateable value of £51,000 or more are not eligible for any grant money under the Government’s scheme to help out small businesses.

Stovold said: “I do feel for a lot of town centre pubs, who are above £51k, if you are at £52k, say then you are totally written out. I think it’s ridiculous.

“Those grants are a one-off. What if we are closed for six months? There are fixed costs, even if you take out rent there is still an extra £8,000 a week for my company to pay. In total, my company was eligible for £135,000 in grants but some of that will definitely have to go to landlords.”

Stovold has already begun brainstorming ideas for when his pubs are allowed to reopen, though he said he believes this will be a long way down the road, and believes it will be at least six months away. He also spoke of the duty of care he feels to reopen his pubs in a responsible way, when allowed to do so. 

He said: “We’ve gone through the process of shutting up shop.

“I simply can’t see that they can allow people to go back into a normal society without expecting this virus to bounce back. I think we will be closed until well into the winter.

“We have a duty of care to come back responsibly, the talk will be of parties and ‘everyone can’t wait’ but, in reality, I don’t think that can happen for a while.”

Care with reopening 

Stovold added: “We’re going to have to be very careful. 

“I really can't see how any person who has been listening to the news can expect to come back to it [soon]. It would be the wrong thing to do, if we opened in a month, nobody would [come to the pub].”

Stovold believes that people will be even more comfortable with the home delivery market by the time pubs reopen and this will change trade patterns.

He said: “People will have different habits so we are trying to cater for that.

“We’ll see a flattening of when people potentially go to pubs. There will not be busy weekends and Fridays in the same way, it will spread out through the week.”

He said he hopes to launch a week-long carvery offer: “The staff are on board with it, it [Sunday carveries] were one of our biggest USPs.

“We used to take two thirds of our weekly money between 2pm and 4pm on a Sunday, it was the busiest period. People aren’t going to do that anymore.”

Related topics: Other operators, UnitedWeStand

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