OPINION: How are we viewed by the outside world?

Demand for parity: SIBA CEO Andy Slee says investors and Government are not listening to the sector
Demand for parity: SIBA CEO Andy Slee says investors and Government are not listening to the sector

Related tags Siba Brewing Finance Government Legislation Andy slee

I recently took a call from a broadsheet journalist wanting to do a piece on “Why all breweries are closing and why cask beer is dead?”

Their bluntness was arresting but I was able to balance the argument by saying we have only 1% fewer breweries in the UK than we had a year ago while independent brewers’ cask beer is showing a healthy double-digit growth.

The article wasn’t written to the best of my knowledge but it got me thinking….

We have many stakeholders in the hospitality sector. Government, investors, shareholders, nearly 1m employees and, most importantly, the millions of customers who ultimately pay all our wages by buying the food, drink and environment we all strive so hard to create.

Government isn't listening

If Covid-19 taught us anything it’s that people want to socialise with friends and family. It’s what people missed most in those dreadful times for society, felt most keenly by pubs and breweries.

Covid-19 cast a dark shadow over us, a shadow that has lingered longer than any of us expected. A shadow that hasn’t been helped by the war in Ukraine, the self-imposed hurdles of Brexit and utility company profiteering – please, let’s call out the latter for what it is.

Since Covid, the collective hospitality narrative has been downbeat. If “X” doesn’t happen then “Y” pubs will close, or similar. It’s clear to me, following the recent Budget, that Government isn’t listening to that story any longer.

Neither are investors. I was talking to a well-known small brewer recently who has been told by his bank that if he reclassifies his business from “hospitality” to “manufacturing” then he has a much greater chance of accessing finance. For clarity, that’s the same brewery talking to the same financial institution about funding for the same growth project.

Stifling levels of tax 

Taking this further, with a continually downbeat narrative, why would people want to make a career in our sector? Or, God forbid continue to come out and socialise if they think that “all the pubs are closing”.

More positively, what I hear from independent brewers is that demand for our products (either latent or realised) isn’t an issue – SIBA members report turnover 14% up on last year. Some 80% of those consumers surveyed also believe their local brewery is a force for good in the local community. What we are hindered by are stifling levels of tax and access to market issues.

Painting a more balanced and upbeat view of pubs and breweries will be key to unlocking future Government help, outside investment and attracting those people who may be shying away from us as a place to work or socialise.

It’s why SIBA’s recently launched manifesto ​asks simply for “FAIRNESS”. No special favours but a level playing field with others and the chance to be at the heart of the economic growth a new Government of any colour will have – front and centre of their thinking.

Let’s all drink to that.

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