BrewDog boss: freezing duty worthless if you can’t heat your pub

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Advice given: James Watt’s four-point plan for Jeremy Hunt
Advice given: James Watt’s four-point plan for Jeremy Hunt

Related tags Craft beer Finance Legislation Government

BrewDog co-founder and chief executive James Watt has branded the Spring Budget ‘underwhelming’ and issued a four-point plan for what should have been announced.

James Watt: here is what the Chancellor should have done

1) Cut business rates​ in half for hospitality for the next 12 months. Business rates are antiquated and we need a review anyway.

2) VAT holiday for hospitality for a year. Pubs and bars like ours are vital parts of a community and we need to protect them.

3) Government-backed loans to protect the really small operators who are going to disappear completely with repayments starting in 12 months’ time.

4) Continued the energy cost support for another 6 months to help businesses survive until prices hopefully stabilise.

Watt said: “If this means spending a bit more money to support business through this nightmare now, it’s better than spending even money on unemployment benefits and the associated fall out when tens of thousands of businesses inevitably go under.”

The boss at the Ellon-based brewer and international bar operator said many on-trade sites will “fall by the wayside” as Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt announced scant good news for the sector in his Spring Budget yesterday​ (15 March 2023).

Watt said: “I kept an eye on the Budget, waiting for the good news for a stricken hospitality sector from the Chancellor but, quite frankly, it was underwhelming. No rabbits, no hat.”

Gnarly teeth

He continued: “We have only just got the bars open after limping through 15 months of lockdowns before inflation sunk its gnarly teeth into our economy, squeezing the bars and pubs pouring the pints and the hammering wallets of the people drinking them.

“The increase in draught relief is a step in the right direction but, quite frankly, it’s small change compared to rampant inflation, escalating production costs and savagely crippling energy bills. Freezing duty on pints is worthless if, like many venues in the UK, you can’t afford to heat your premises.”

He explained if BrewDog had increased pint prices in line with how its energy costs have risen, a pint of Punk IPA would cost customers almost £30.

Tax breaks

He added: “There are 2.6m people working in hospitality so why could we not have seen things like tax breaks to cut the cost of employing them and help keep them in employment? Or another VAT holiday to help us make the most of the summer and tempt people out in the winter and fight help us fight against closures and job losses?”

With “much less generous support” for businesses’ energy costs, Watt said there would be “more pain” for the wider sector and that experts estimate up to 70% of the UK’s hospitality venues could be forced to close.

He lamented: “Sadly, many fantastic bars, pubs and restaurants that our vital to our community and our economy are going to be fall by the wayside in 2023. Thanks for nothing, Jeremy… ”

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