Urgent clarification on reopening needed in 'moment of maximum jeopardy'

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Ticking clock: Britain's leading pubcos and brewers have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urgently clarify details on pubs reopening
Ticking clock: Britain's leading pubcos and brewers have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urgently clarify details on pubs reopening

Related tags: Coronavirus

A coalition of more than 50 breweries and pub companies have written to the Prime Minister, urging him to announce more details about when pubs will be allowed to reopen before tomorrow (Friday 19 June).

Signatories of the open letter – sent by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) – include companies that collectively brew 90% of the beer in Britain and own 20,000 pubs, with big names such as Asahi, Heinken, Greene King and Marston's.

The letter urges the Government to "act as an issue of immediacy" and said businesses will be forced to make tough decisions as the lack of clarity intensifies cost pressures. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk and operators could make permanent layoffs to many workers in the coming days, it states.

Cash flow

The BBPA said it has found pub and brewery businesses are spending £100m every month in cash during this closure period. It also estimated that unless pubs are allowed to reopen from the previously touted date of 4 July, changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cost them an additional £120m.  

On behalf of the sector, BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “Please will you confirm all pubs will be able to open on the 4 July and put to rest any speculation on restrictions on outdoor space only openings, and confirm when the workplace guidance be published to allow us sufficient time to do final preparations to re-stock venues, and to train our staff?”

The Government has been silent despite pleas for a confirmed date and guidelines on how reopening would work.​ Ministers confirmed beer gardens would not be opening earlier than 4 July​ after speculation, yet have not issued any further information.

The sector has said it needs at least three weeks to get ready, leaving many publicans and brewers taking financial gambles by making preparations now.

Maximum jeopardy 

The letter declared this as a “moment of maximum jeopardy for the future of Britain’s brewers and pubs.”

Ralph Findlay, chief executive of Marston’s, said the company had started brewing draught beer for pubs last week and this week faced the decision about whether to bring staff back from furlough and invest in new safety protocols.

He added: “The safety of our guests and employees is paramount. I will not reopen our pubs before those protocols are in place. Without an immediate and definitive confirmation from [the] Government on timing, I can’t afford to bring our staff back to work to do that. 

“It is critical for pubs to be open and trading over the summer, or many pubs will not reopen, and many more jobs will be lost. We need the Government to commit to opening on 4 July – now.’’

The letter in full:

Dear Prime Minister

The brewing and pub sector is in crisis. Although we remain grateful for the support measures that have been put in place since March, the increasing uncertainty the industry faces, with the absence of a confirmed date for the opening of all​ pubs, risks crippling our businesses. This is a moment of maximum jeopardy for the future of Britain’s brewers and pubs. Our sector needs urgent clarification by Friday 19 June of the guidance that we have been working with the Government on and that we will be expected to adhere to, and crucially absolute certainty on the date our pubs will be opening. 

The measures taken by the Government have enabled many businesses to survive whilst closed in this period, but it should not be underestimated that the immediate future of thousands of pubs and hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk in the coming days and months. We are taking decisions now regarding the future of furloughed staff and the uncertainty around the 4 July as an opening date for either some pubs or all pubs, or an opening date for pubs at all, could directly lead to thousands of these jobs being lost permanently and never coming back.  

Our businesses cannot afford to continue in limbo. Collectively our members are burning through an estimated £100m a month in sustaining their businesses in the absence of any income, and as the date for reopening of 4 July approaches even more money is being spent on preparing pubs to safely reopen. Indeed, many brewers have commenced brewing again and brought back support teams to enable them to deliver fresh beer ahead of 4 July. 

BBPA members are desperate to welcome the British public back into their pubs this summer and we have been working tirelessly to prepare for the 4 July – but it is vital that we have more certainty around what that date actually represents. This will give both businesses and consumers the confidence they need to get the sector back on its feet. Please will you confirm all pubs will be able to open on the 4 July and put to rest any speculation on restrictions on outdoor space only openings, and confirm when the workplace guidance be published to allow us sufficient time to do final preparations to re-stock venues, and to train our staff? 

The livelihoods of thousands of publicans and hundreds of thousands of pub and brewery employees in every corner of the UK hang in the balance. We want to work with the Government to get our breweries and pubs back on their feet, but we need urgent clarity from you in order to do this. As ever, I remain available at your convenience to discuss the matters raised above.

Yours sincerely, Emma McClakin, 

Related topics: Health & safety

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