Chris Jowsey called for more targeted support for wet-led community pubs and claimed the Government’s existing support had been “welcome but insufficient”.
“I just don't believe we need to stay closed until May to be honest,” the pubco boss told The Morning Advertiser.
“If you look at the speed – so far, fingers’ crossed – of the vaccination rollout, it's really important we get those most vulnerable protected, and then we can go back to more open trading."
He added: “I can understand the need to keep things very controlled while we have got a lot of hospitalisations going on currently, but hopefully that will begin to flatten out very soon.”
Safe places to socialise
Pubs should be allowed to open at the same time as non-essential retail, Jowsey said. “In my mind, if it's not March, it's the beginning of April.
“The facts and evidence prove pubs are safe places to socialise. We have gone to such a lot of effort to make sure they are Covid-secure, I can't see any reason to keep them shut longer than other non-essential retail.”
Ministers have suggested the country could return to the tiered system in a gradual easing of restrictions, once the impact of vaccinating the most at-risk individuals can be seen.
Jowsey, like many of his peers, is critical of the tier system of coronavirus measures that was in place before England’s third lockdown.
Several rules – including the requirement for a substantial meal and a curfew – should be ditched by the Government as they are “counter productive” and “don’t make any sense.”
Allowing different households is key to the survival of wet-led community pubs, the pubco boss added.
Most Admiral licensees received the lowest sum available of £4,000 in the latest Government grants. “I don't believe £4,000 will last beyond March. We need to open up ideally, as soon as possible,” Jowsey explained.
Support feels useless
Wet pubs need targeted support, such as a significant cut to beer duty and extending the VAT reduced rate for hospitality to alcohol sales.
“The VAT cut is useless if you can't open and trade. There's no benefit at all,” Jowsey said. “The rates concession isn't benefiting anybody because we have no income coming in whatsoever."
“It feels as if some of the things offered to us are proving to be useless because we can't open and trade with them.”
The Government must focus on helping the sector thrive to regenerate the economy, Jowsey added. “I really worry about when the Prime Minister talks about the level of support provided because it is nowhere near the amount of tax that we normally contribute as a sector."
Supermarket freedoms ridiculous
Wet-led pubs have been the victims of a “real lack of knowledge and understanding about how the sector works,” Jowsey said, in reference to the ban on takeaway alcohol sales.
“The vast majority of people who were buying takeaway alcohol from pubs were not congregating around the pub, they were taking it home, because they wanted a draught beer that they had been missing so much,” he explained.
“I find it ridiculous people can buy alcohol in a supermarket, which are benefiting from Covid rather than being damaged.”
Jowsey added: “We have never had worst transmission or hospitalisation than we do now but in most of the country, pubs have been closed since the beginning of November. So it hasn't been caused by pubs, it's been caused by people getting together in homes. On that basis, why push people into homes, why not allow them to go out and socialise in a pub where it's more Covid secure?”