Managing director at Camden Town Brewery, Adam Keary told The Morning Advertiser (MA) the company had been forced to second-guess itself when beginning four-week brews. “The rapid changes in restrictions have resulted in our sales being extremely volatile, making it very difficult to forecast,” he said.
“Beer is best when it’s drunk fresh so we’re constantly battling between pouring beer away when we have too much and disappointing our customers when we don’t have enough."
Last minute rules have created “a lot of uncertainty” for pubs and their supply chains, Keary said.
“I know many people that work in hospitality that are actively looking for alternative work because they don’t know what future they have in hospitality, even the best of assurances from operators aren’t guarantees to a group of employees who need their incomes to survive.
“The latest Government restrictions, such as the 10pm curfew, don’t appear to be based on science so many operators are really starting to lose confidence in this government – this becomes a dangerous mix,” Keary added.
The brewery has already seen “many, many operators close up permanently, and many others go through a consultation process to reduce their employees and overheads,” Keary added. He said current Government support for the sector "won’t be enough to guarantee the millions of jobs in the industry, and to keep the pubs open and operating throughout – that is clear."
London-based brewer Lee Hamerton, of Hamerton Brewery, said the tier system had created anxiety among customers. “People aren’t sure what they can and can’t be doing when they decide to go out to the pub,” he explained.
Prior to lockdown, the capital city was placed in tier two, meaning different households were not allowed to meet up indoors. "People for the most part, go to the pub or to bars and restaurants, to meet up with friends or family. That's been halted for now."
Hamerton said the tier system had meant trade for his pub customers had “drastically reduced”.
“We’re kind of just guessing, trying to second guess everything. It’s tricky,” he told The MA, ahead of the second lockdown being announced.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said England will once more see a tiered system of measures when lockdown laws expire on 2 December, however it is unclear if they will be the same as before.
Director of Manchester Union Brewery Will Evans knows the impact of restrictions on pubs more than anyone, with Greater Manchester under localised measures since the summer.
Local leaders have protested the tier three categorisation of Greater Manchester and called on the Government to provide more evidence to justify imposing tough rules after lockdown such as the closure of wet-led pubs.
Evans said the tier system had meant “hugely severe reductions in on-trade volume” and his business had been forced to pivot to the at-home market with new cans and gift sets.
“We’re just waiting for the pubs to be open,” he said. “Tier three was a real disaster for us, and the 10pm curfew was a disaster too.”
“Everyone is quite pragmatic and understands if something needs to happen then it needs to happen,” Evans said, reiterating the sector’s calls for more evidence to justify the health benefits of tight measures on venues.
“It feels that hospitality has been adversely affected because it's an easy way to attempt to make some difference.”
Calls for support
Evans is confident the business will make it through the tough winter ahead but said the brewery has “ruled out” the rest of 2020 and accepted December will see like-for-like sales drop.
The brewery has been unable to receive any additional grant funding for the second lockdown. “There’s nothing for breweries,” Evans said.
His words follow the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) calling for more support for brewers in the second lockdown.
SIBA chief executive welcomed the extension of furlough but said the Government had “ignored” calls for “grants for basic running costs for all pubs and breweries, extension of business rate cuts to breweries, a VAT cut on beer, compensation for beer destruction and big action on beer duty”.
“SIBA, and other trade bodies will continue to campaign for a full, 6 month package of measures for breweries, pubs and hospitality."