Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined new measures for English pubs yesterday (Tuesday 22 September) including a nationwide 10pm curfew and table service only.
Trade bodies and operators said the restrictions, which the Government has suggested could continue for six months unless palpable progress is made against the pandemic, threaten the survival of jobs and businesses.
The chief executives of the country’s largest pub companies have called on the Government to do more for the sector, with concerns about the impact on consumer confidence.
UKHospitality(UKH), the British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA) and the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) are leading calls for a tailored package of measures including an extension of the furlough scheme, VAT cut and business rates holiday.
UKH chief executive Kate Nicholls warned of the consequences of the measures without further support. “These restrictions are a further, potentially fatal, blow for many hospitality businesses. In isolation, they may appear moderate, but the cumulative effect is going to be hugely damaging,” she said.
“Consumer confidence is going to take another hit and we cannot hope to recover while confidence remains low.”
Without an extension of the furlough scheme beyond October, the sector would see a “steady stream of job losses for six months,” she added.
Publicans are worried they will be forced to let go staff who were employed for the reopening of their sites in July as they are not eligible for furlough.
Fiona Hornsby operates the Bridewell and The Denbigh Castle in Liverpool and has eight employees not eligible for furlough as they were employed after the cut-off date.
“We have reduced staff hours in line with at least a 25% drop in turnover and that is me trying to be positive. We have already taken a kicking and despite Government support, we had three months of trying to rebuild our trade only now to have this,” she explained.
Likewise, Lindsey Armstrong operates the Champs Sports Bar and Grill in Washington, Tyne and Wear and said she was worried about her nine staff not covered by the scheme. "It's not just the pub that is suffering, it's everybody that works in it,” she told The Morning Advertiser (The MA).
Anthony Payne operates the Ox & Plough, also in Washington, where stricter restrictions on socialising are in place, and said a lack of support for those in his position would cause many pubs to “close for good”.
While pubs closed in local restrictions, such as in Bolton, can apply for a £1,000 grant for every 3 weeks they are closed, Payne said: “This ‘half-way house’ style approach taken in the North East, asking businesses to remain open leaves us unable to access any additional support.”
He has written an open letter calling for more support, including an extension to the business rates holiday until at least April 2022, further grants for community pubs, especially those impacted by local restrictions, and a beer duty cut.
One London publican told The MA table service meant a more labour intensive operation despite pressure to keep costs down. “It's going to mean fewer customers as our offer is now less attractive, but more staff hours to keep order. It's an incredibly difficult position to put us in. I don't know how we're going to get through this,” she said.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is reportedly considering replacing he furlough scheme with a German-style wage subsidy initiative, according to several national newspapers.
This type of scheme would allow bosses to reduce employees’ hours while maintaining their employment, with lost hours - or a percentage of them – paid for by the Government.
Emma McClarkin, BBPA chief executive, said support was needed as a matter of urgency. “The Government now needs to act fast in putting together a comprehensive support package to ensure that thousands of pubs don't close their doors for good because of this curfew,” she said.