The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), has welcomed a new package of support announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak for businesses including pubs that will be forced to close in any future local lockdowns.
As part of the package, the Chancellor announced an expanded Job Support Scheme for businesses forced to close, whereby the Government will cover two-thirds of pay for employees unable to work.
The package also includes cash grants for businesses required to close in local lockdowns worth up to £3,000 a month. The trade association awaits further details on these, and it is important that they are exempt from State Aid caps, which would otherwise prevent eligible businesses from accessing this support.
Both measures of support will include businesses who haven’t been forced to shut but can remain open for delivery or takeaway only.
Whilst the BBPA has welcomed the new support, it emphasised that allowing pubs to continue serving their communities and offering a well-regulated safe place to socialise in is the best way to protect jobs and livelihoods.
It urges Government for evidence based, proportionate measures as it considers plans for extended lock downs. The trade association has reiterated it has serious questions over the evidence being used to support further harsh restrictions, citing the latest COVID-19 surveillance report from PHE released today, showing just 30 incidents of COVID-19 were from hospitality settings – representing just 3% of total transmissions.
It notes that no hard evidence has been given yet to suggest that pubs, with their strict adherence to Government guidelines, are unsafe, making it unclear if such blanket measures can play a major role in controlling the virus.
It is therefore urging the Government to commit to regular reviews of any future local lockdowns, as well as the 10pm curfew on pubs already in place across the UK.
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said:
“The enhanced Job Support Scheme announced by the Chancellor today will help save some jobs in areas facing local lockdowns. The fact remains though that for other pubs across the UK struggling with the 10pm curfew and rule of six – which is decimating their sales – the standard Job Support Scheme is no way near adequate.
“Cash grants for pubs forced to close for a local lockdown, or do takeaway and delivery only, are a necessary measure to give them a fighting chance of survival whilst they cannot fully open to do business.
“Whilst the support today for pubs facing a local lockdown is welcome, we do still have serious questions over the effectiveness such lockdowns will have in stopping the spread of the virus.
“The latest COVID-19 surveillance report from PHE today shows just 30 incidents of COVID-19 were from hospitality settings. NHS Test and Trace numbers linked to pubs across the UK remain exceptionally low. Based on these insights we must ask why the Government isn’t taking evidence-based, proportionate measures to tackle the virus?
“It remains the case there is no hard evidence as yet to suggest that pubs, with their strict adherence to Government guidelines, are unsafe, making it unclear if local lockdowns, or indeed the 10pm curfew, will have any material impact at all on transmission.
“The Government must review its measures on a regular basis and commit to removing them if they are found not to effectively reduce the spread of the virus.”
Commenting on the effectiveness of local lockdowns and other restrictions, Patrick Dardis, Chief Executive of London pub operator Young’s, said:
“Since reopening, we have had 2.7 million people through our doors, but just 9 confirmed Covid cases. That’s an infection rate of just 0.00000328%.
“NHS Test and Trace numbers linked to pubs across the sector are also exceptionally low. The latest COVID-19 surveillance report from Public Health England shows just 30 incidents of COVID-19 in the last week were from hospitality settings.
“Serious questions must be raised over the effectiveness local hospitality lockdowns will have in stopping the spread of the virus, as well as the 10pm curfew which is pushing people into the streets or into unsecure venues. The Government must use evidence-based, proportionate measures to tackle the virus instead and commit to reviewing the measures on a regular basis and remove them if they don’t stop the spread of the virus.
“Our sector has spent hundreds of millions in ensuring it is COVID safe and secure for staff and customers alike. The sector should be congratulated by the Government for adapting so well to create a safe environment for socialising in and should be seen as a solution to fighting the virus, not a problem.”