'Bail-out package not enough to survive': Publicans demand more

Dawn Hopkins, owner and landlady of The Rose in Norwich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Dawn Hopkins, owner and landlady of The Rose in Norwich, is calling on the government to provide more help for the pub industry for it to survive. She is pictured here before lockdown. - Credit: Archant

Pub landlords across Norfolk say government support of up to £9,000 each is "not enough to touch the sides" of colossal losses.

Instead, they are calling for a raft of better measures to avoid many in their industry closing for good.

It comes as chancellor Rishi Sunak promised pubs, along with restaurants, retailers and other hospitality and leisure companies a new one-off grant totalling £4.6billion.

landlord with pint of beer

Phil Cutter, landlord of the Murderers, before Covid. - Credit: Archant

But publicans claim although the chancellor's financial aid is welcome, the amount is "wholly inadequate". Many claims they have suffered losses of 10 times that or more.

One Norwich pub landlord said takings were down by as much as 80pc when they were allowed to reopen and they were trading in between the lockdowns at a complete loss.

pub closure sign

Pubs are having to stay closed but forking out bills and overheads. - Credit: Archant library

And many pub owners are also bitter that the new lockdown does not allow them to sell takeaway beer like last time whereas supermarkets and other businesses such as off licences are allowed to.

And they have criticised the fact the new support is awarded in accordance with rateable value. To qualify for the maximum £9,000, publicans need this to be more than £51,000.

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The Campaign for Pubs group, representing pubs, pub owners and pub-goers, has called for measures to keep the industry alive. This aid focuses on compensating pub owners, many of whom are still paying overheads and bills such as VAT and rent.

pub landlord outside pub

Paul Sandford, who runs the Railway Tavern in Dereham. - Credit: Archant

The measures include a call for 'closure grants' of at least £1,000 a week to cover costs as well as a statutory rent code.

This would give pub owners the right to a rent review, to stop unreasonable rents that don't reflect trading conditions and a presumption of no commercial rent during forced closures.

Added to the wishlist is a business rates holiday and a reduction in VAT to 5pc on all pub/hospitality sales, including on all drinks, to support all pubs and not just places that sell food. 

Dawn Hopkins, vice-chairwoman of the Campaign for Pubs, who runs the Rose Tavern in Norwich said: “The levels of support for pubs is currently wholly inadequate.

"We are still not being given anywhere near enough financial support to protect our livelihoods and our families. The financial and emotional strain on publicans – and our suppliers including small brewers – is immense.

“Without urgent, adequate support, many pubs, including pubs that have survived for centuries and two world wars, will be lost. The government needs to realise and act on the fact that we cannot survive like this.

"The future of thousands of pubs, publicans and small brewers is in their hands."

Phil Cutter, landlord of the Murderers, in Timber Hill, Norwich, said: "Up to £9,000 doesn't even touch the sides. Our electricity bill alone is £600-£1,000, then we've got insurance to pay and VAT. 

"We've been shut for six months and when we reopened, we were 80pc down, and running at a loss even though it was great to be trading again. Many pubs have deferred paying their tax since last July and are in a dreadful position."

Chris Isgate, landlord of the Duke of Wellington, Waterloo road, Norwich, said; "The situation has definitely got bleaker. It doesn't make sense that the government has stopped us selling takeaway beer. 

"You can go into a supermarket, which is much busier, and buy beer yet you can't order a few pints of local ale from a pub. We had people who would phone us up for an order and would come one at a time, there were no issues."

Paul Sandford, who runs the Railway Tavern in Dereham, said: "Any help from the government is better than nothing but I can't see many pubs getting £9,000 because they are in a lower rateable value bracket. It was a tough industry even before coronavirus.

"I haven't sat down to work out how much I've lost, I think that might push me over the edge. But I don't think the government can do much more, I know people with coronavirus and we've just got to ride this out together."

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