Five-point plan launched to save pubs
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A new five-point plan has been set out by campaigners to save our pubs before it proves too late for many struggling businesses.
The '#UnlockInn - Save the Great British Pub' campaign, which is led by the Countryside Alliance, has been backed by Norfolk publicans and MPs alike.
It has called for pubs to be able to serve alcohol with takeaways as soon as possible and for the 'substantial meal' requirement to be scrapped.
The other requests are a practical roadmap to help prepare businesses for resuming trading, extending the current 5pc VAT rate, and increased financial support from the government if pubs are forced to remain closed into the summer months.
Dawn Hopkins, who runs the Rose Inn on Queens Road, Norwich, said: "I worry that if we open up too soon, we could go back into lockdown or there are too many restrictions. It's a tightrope at the moment.
"We can't survive how we are going forward at the moment. We really need a clear plan of how we can open and how that will look."
With landlords already having to fork out huge sums on installing features designed to comply with and aid COVID-19 safety guidance, Ms Hopkins said talks of increased outdoor service would not be viable for her pub.
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She said: "It is very difficult in Norwich to have an outside area. I would not be able to do that. You would need the staff to run out and the capacity would just not work whatsoever.
"It is very unclear what the rules will be like when we can open up. I am not even convinced by table service because it puts my staff at risk and it puts costs up as you have to have staff on the tables."
Ms Hopkins said going back to the tier restrictions would be "a killer" for many pubs, particularly those that are wet-led.
She believes pubs should be able to reopen at the same time as non-essential retailers.
Rob Bartram, landlord of the Red Lion in Swaffham, said it would be a "close call" over whether his pub will be able to survive when the lockdown is eventually eased.
He said: "At the end of the day, if the government does not help out the hospitality industry, we are going to find a lot more people losing their pubs.
"The longer this goes on, the more businesses will be closing. Even though we have a restaurant and and a takeaway, it has not been worth the hassle for us. We are still furloughing staff."
Paul Edwards, who runs the Red Lion in Caston, said: “As a landlord who is serving takeaway meals, being able to sell alcohol too would be a big help for my business.
"However, when we can open fully, we want to be able to get customers back through the door and the substantial meal requirement acts as a big barrier to our potential footfall.”
The ‘#UnlockInn - Save the Great British Pub campaign’ enables people to lobby their local MP with a letter asking the government to allow pubs to start trading again.
A spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance said none of the Norfolk MPs have officially signed up to the campaign at this stage, but stressed it was only launched on Sunday.
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said: "COVID has been an economic as well as public health crisis. Our businesses, self-employed and freelancers have been especially hard hit.
"Pubs and clubs have seen massive losses. In rural areas like ours, pubs are the lifeline of the community. We must help them survive and bounce back."
Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew said: “All of us want our pubs to be there for all of us to enjoy once we are able to get back outside. Pubs are at the heart of our communities and the sooner that they can open safely the better.
"I recognise that the government has a huge balancing act to undertake: between minimising the economic damage of lockdown and opening up too quickly, causing yet another wave of infections.
"If lockdown measures have to be phased to get that balance right, then support for affected businesses should be phased too.”