Pub industry calls for reopening of the sector as sales halve

Prominent figures within the beer and pub industry are calling upon the Government to reopen pubs with non-essential shops when lockdown ends, as they are an indispensable contributor to the economy. 

Tim Martin, the Chairman of JD Wetherspoons, reveals that the chain pays about £10 of tax for every pound of profit it makes. He warns that pubs are “on its knees” and need to reopen to save employees’ jobs.

He also believes that the imposed restrictions and lockdown measures, which have been around since March 2020, could cause a “disaster for public finances”.

In the financial year of July 2019, pre-coronavirus, JD Wetherspoons, its customers and employees generated £764 million of taxes – which shows how “important pubs are to the economy.”

He argues that the use of plastic screens, table service and one-way systems, combined with the distribution of the vaccine makes the restaurant and pub venues “covid-secure environments.”

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) also asks the Government for a “roadmap to recovery” and a clear timeline for when pub venues can open and ease the restrictions.

According to their figures, sales fell by 56 per cent in 2020 – equating to £7.8 billion. In the second quarter alone, during the first lockdown, beer sales plummeted by 96 per cent. Additionally, during the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme and the temporary VAT cut on food and soft drinks, sales still decreased by 27 per cent.

Unless pubs receive more assistant once they reopen, thousands could encounter more difficulties and even close permanently due to the substantial debts they racked during 2020, says the BBPA.

They ask for pubs to receive the following, once the most vulnerable people are vaccinated:

  • Pubs must reopen with non-essential retail shops, cafes, and restaurants.
  • Trading restrictions, such as the curfew, should be lifted promptly.
  • The VAT cut on food and soft drinks needs extending.
  • There needs to be a significant beer duty cut.

Across most of the UK, pubs, bars and restaurants are currently closed. However, some businesses can offer takeaway food and drinks with specific restrictions.

The pub chain Young’s also states that pubs need to reopen by April. But the hospitality industry will be disappointed to hear that scientists call talk of reopening venues ‘premature’.

Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, Dr Bharat Pankhania, says “What the executives of pubs need to know is that failure to get it right equals back to square one. And back to square one equals much more pain economically, much more hardship.”

He added: “…you drink alcohol to relax and have a bonhomie with your friends. One of the consequences of relaxing is that you drop your guard.”

Scientists are warning against rolling back measures too quickly in the UK. But the Prime Minister is ‘optimistic’ that he can set out plans on 22 February to ease England’s lockdown, keeping caution in mind. Schools will be the first to open, followed by non-essential shops and then the hospitality sector.

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