PM’s announcement ‘leaves sector in limbo’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Televised address: the Prime Minister has revealed plans for a phased reopening of businesses
Televised address: the Prime Minister has revealed plans for a phased reopening of businesses

Related tags: Coronavirus

Boris Johnson’s announcement about a phased reopening of businesses yesterday (Sunday 10 May) means the pub sector remains in limbo, one trade association has said.

The Prime Minister addressed the nation in a pre-recorded television statement, outlining a three-phase “road map” of lockdown restrictions easing.

The first phase starts this week (Wednesday 13 May), and will allow the public to take unlimited exercise outdoors.

Phase two is planned to start from 1 June when some shops will open and primary school children in reception year as well as Year 1 and Year 6 could return to school.

The third phase, which is set to take place from 1 July, would mean some hospitality businesses and public spaces reopen, however, Johnson did not specify which.

But, more detail about the phases is expected to be released in a document from the Government later today (Monday 11 May).

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin called for further financial support for the industry.

She said: “The industry was looking for a glimmer of hope, a date to plan to and further financial support reassured but it looks like we have more weeks of uncertainty ahead of us.

“With insufficient clarity as to when pubs will reopen, our sector remains in limbo and facing severe uncertainty and financial devastation.

“If Government plans to keep pubs closed until the final phase of release, as rumoured, this would make pubs first in and last out of lockdown.”

Immeasurable damage

McClarkin added: “Despite this, the Government hasn’t outlined any specific additional financial support for pubs to assure and help them through the extended lockdown hardship they face.”

She highlighted how she understood pubs should only open when safe to do so but that extending the lockdown without offering additional support, would be devastating.

McClarkin said: “Our own research shows 40% of Britain’s pubs won’t survive beyond September with the current level of financial support on offer from the Government.

“That’s almost 19,000 pubs that won’t reopen. The Government must understand the current financial support it is providing, although welcome, does not go anywhere near enough to cover pub’s costs through an extended lockdown.

“This is before we even consider an eventual reopening, inevitably with vastly reduced revenue due to stringent social distancing restrictions in place. Without any specific additional financial support, the social hubs and heart of communities in many towns, villages and cities across the UK will be lost forever, resulting in immeasurable damage to the wellbeing of our nation.

“Our clear and urgent ask to the Government is they recognise the real jeopardy facing the great British pub and put in place, targeted measures now to save it, or risk losing local pubs forever.”

The Prime Minister’s focus on saving lives and livelihoods was an important and positive basis for progress, according to UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.

Implementing protocols

She said: “The Prime Minister gave us a sense of the shape of his plan and the journey ahead. He was explicit about his commitment to support those workers whose businesses are not able to return soon and we remain committed to continuing our dialogue with the Government to achieve that. We have been calling for a more flexible, extended furlough system and [the Prime Minister’s] statement appears to leave the door open for that.

“UKHospitality has already been working up protocols for implementation in different parts of the sector to allow venues to confidently open their doors when it is safe to do so.

“This is very much consistent with the approach of ‘Covid-secure’ standards the Prime Minister referenced. He recognised in his statement that some parts of business will be able to open and others won’t.

“We will work to ensure the Government is well-placed to support those in hospitality that need longer, as well as enabling those who are able to return.”

The impact on licensees and customer safety are pubco Greene King’s main concerns, CEO Nick Mackenzie highlighted.

He said: “We are keen to avoid a false start, and the support the Government has provided during the lockdown will also be needed during the recovery phase as maintaining social distancing will have a significant impact on pubs.

“We are working closely with our people and our tenants to put in place a reopening strategy that adheres closely to Government guidance so when we do open our doors again, it is with robust safety and hygiene measures in place for our team and customers.”

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) chief executive James Calder labelled the Prime Minister’s statement “a starting point and a methodology for how we will come out of lockdown”.

He said: “We need to see the detail of which sectors are included within ‘step three’ but, at this stage, it looks like pubs and taprooms will follow restaurants, cinemas and cafés in July but if and only if, we maintain control of the virus. That may mean the partial awakening of our sector is still at least eight to 12 weeks away.

“While we thank the Prime Minister for recognising our sector directly in his speech and in Government social media, eight to 12 weeks is still a huge amount of time. In that intervening period, our sector requires continued direct support from Government to ensure the 1m jobs in pubs, brewing and supply chain are preserved.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we continue to be at the core of discussions with Government about how our heritage, culture and our right to have a good pint in a good pub is maintained for the long term.

“We will, of course, not put any pressure on Government to open pubs and taprooms ahead of when it is safe to do so but we will put pressure where it is needed to ensure our sector has a fighting chance of survival.”

Related topics: Legislation, UnitedWeStand

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