'Leave us alone, let us come back and stabilise'

By Rebecca Weller contact

- Last updated on GMT

Give people the confidence to go into pubs: Jason Smith outside the White Swan
Give people the confidence to go into pubs: Jason Smith outside the White Swan

Related tags: Tax, Beer duty, Beer, Yorkshire, Budget

One licensee has urged the Government to let the hospitality sector recover and grow ahead of the Autumn Budget.

With national debt currently at its highest since 1963, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, is under immense pressure to balance the books, but how can he help the hospitality sector on Wednesday (27 October).

The Conservative party have pressed Sunak to back pubs by cutting beer duty for draught pints after the freeze on alcohol duty and temporary VAT cuts for hospitality and tourism businesses from 20% to 5% during Covid, ended this month.

Let pubs get back up to speed

Licensee of the White Swan in Otley, Yorkshire, Jason Smith, said: “Every bit of help for the hospitality industry is good, everybody will want more, but what I do is take what we get, move on and fight for another day.

“My message to Rishi Sunak would be leave us alone, let us come back and stabilise, everybody’s had it hard but hospitality has been hit the hardest I think, but let us grow, let people come back naturally, let them enjoy Christmas, let them feel like they are alive again, let them go out again and socialise with families again, just let us naturally come back up to speed, because we are not there yet.

“If I was sat with him, I would just say give us 12 months, let us get going again, let people feel confident about going into pubs restaurants and bars again, give us time to come back, and I think we will, then they can do whatever they want because everybody will be back to speed in my mind.”

While Smith has used furlough schemes and lockdowns to expand and open new premises, this is not the case for everyone, however with much of the hospitality industry at full capacity, the likelihood of the Covid tax cut being extended is slim, meaning pubs and restaurants will revert to higher tax and business rates, and for those who have passed this relief onto consumers, some prices may have to be put back up.

Smith said: “When we open up, we won’t put our prices up, we have always charged the same price, we will sell a standard Carling for £3.60 where across the road it’s £3.

“If you have a beautiful place, if you’ve got a great environment, good service and great staff, live bands on at weekends, I don’t think the price is the problem, it’s value for money.

“If you’re charging £5 a pint and customers are thinking the beer is warm, the bar staff haven’t said hello to me, they haven’t even engaged me, the place is mucky and they charge £5 a pint, I’m not going to come back here. For me, I think if you give the customer a great experience, price isn’t a problem.”

Building customer confidence 

The Chancellor is expected to raise beer duty and potentially scrap premiums on sparkling wine.

Currently, there are 15 bands of tax of for beer, cider, wine, and spirits, for example, beer with a 7.5% (ABV) or more is currently taxed at just under 25p per litre whereas other drinks that contain the same amount of alcohol are taxed at 61p.

For Smith, it’s all about stability and building customer confidence for the hospitality sector to bounce back and politicians should be motivating the public to feel safe going back into pubs and bars.

He added: “They’re not in the industry, they’re the guys that sit and make the decisions and say right we can do this or we can do that, but I think if they took themselves off into bars and pubs and see them working, some have come back really quickly but some are taking their time.

“People just want to feel confident about going back in somewhere without any hassle, without anyone telling them they have to do this or that unless they choose to.

“The past is the past, we’ve got to keep living and moving forward, that’s what I would love to see everybody do.”

Related topics: Legislation

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