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Breweries’ survival fears as pubs look set to remain closed

PUBLISHED: 06:30 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 06:55 28 April 2020

John Hughes, second from left and brother Paul, second from right, at Redwell Brewing. John Hughes said breweries were falling through the cracks. Pic: John Hughes

John Hughes, second from left and brother Paul, second from right, at Redwell Brewing. John Hughes said breweries were falling through the cracks. Pic: John Hughes

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Breweries in Norfolk are facing uncertainty over their survival amid patchy financial support and pubs set to remain closed.

Martin James (left) and Jack Mortimer of Panther Brewery in Reepham said no pubs would lead to difficult decisions for the brewery. Picture: Matthew Usher.Martin James (left) and Jack Mortimer of Panther Brewery in Reepham said no pubs would lead to difficult decisions for the brewery. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The government’s retail, hospitality and leisure business grants fund does not cover breweries, despite them being a key part of the main supply chain for pubs.

Instead they can apply for small business grants funds, but only if they have a rateable value of £15,000 or less.

For Redwell Brewing in Trowse, which is slightly too large for the small business grant, the lack of a specific grant for the industry is an oversight which they say could lead to firms falling through the cracks.

Mike Deal and Mark Goodman of Wildcraft Brewery. Mr Deal had turned to home deliveries during lockdown. Picture: SubmittedMike Deal and Mark Goodman of Wildcraft Brewery. Mr Deal had turned to home deliveries during lockdown. Picture: Submitted

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John Hughes, one of the directors, said: “A grant would mean we wouldn’t be living hand to mouth. We literally watch every penny we spend.

“There is a limit we can carry on for and then we will reach a point where we will have to close. Our online sales and walk-ins is our only source of revenue. ”

The challenging times also mean the beer will literally run out at Redwell, as its two brewers, whose salaries they cannot currently afford, have been furloughed.

Mr Hughes added: “We will also need to time to gear up to open when we are allowed to. We will have to then take staff off furlough and pay their salaries, which we can’t afford to do.”

Wildcraft Brewery in Buxton, which was eligible for the small business grant, has still had to start home deliveries for the first time in order to stay afloat.

Mike Deal, one of the owners, said: “We have had to completely change our business model and deliver straight to people rather than pubs.

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“The grant is enough to help for three months but after that it is uncertain. As long as we keep building the deliveries, we will be able to survive but survive is the key word.”

Martin James, owner of the Panther Brewery in Reepham, said the small business grant was better than nothing, but that they had also turned to home deliveries.

He added: “The grant is keeping us going but pubs are our customer and if we couldn’t supply them in the future we would have to look at making difficult decisions.”

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