Scotland’s biggest pub operator, Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars, expects around 50% of its 230 pubs in Scotland to reopen on April 26th, the company announced today.
With half its pubs remaining closed, Star Pubs & Bars is continuing its rent reduction support until restrictions are fully lifted. By 17 May – when rules may next be eased – the company will have invested over £5.7 million in rent cuts to help its Scottish pubs through the pandemic. Its rent reduction support for the UK now stands at £62 million.
In addition to rent relief, Star Pubs & Bars is offering its licensees free Covid Safety point-of-sale materials, and a raft of reopening support. This includes new training materials, trading insight and supplier discounts to enable licensees to make the most of their outside areas.
Star licensees around Scotland are revamping their outdoor space in preparation for April 26th.
Over the last two months, licensee Neil Douglas of Basils on Annfield in Newhaven, Edinburgh, has upgraded a stylish alfresco area he added to the pub during the first lockdown. Carrying out much of the work himself, Neil has installed sail-like covers, festoon lighting and pretty planting as well as new fencing to shelter customers from the sea breezes. The £8,000 revamp has gone down well with local residents.
Says Neil: “Feedback has been tremendous. People have really missed popping into their local and meeting up with friends. They’re excited to have a safe outdoor space on their doorstep. We’re fully booked for the first week and are filling up fast after that. We can’t wait to welcome the community back. I’m optimistic for the future but prepared for anything, as the pandemic is far from over. Pubs desperately need certainty and as much notice as possible that they can trade more normally from May 17th.
“The 90% rent cuts we’ve had from Star have kept Basils afloat. By comparison, I’ve received no decrease in rent at one of my privately leased restaurants and only 25% at the other. My heart goes out to licensees who haven’t had rent reductions; they’ll be sitting on a mountain of debt.”
Adds Lawson Mountstevens, Star Pubs & Bars managing director: “We know the rent relief, which represents a significant investment on behalf of Star Pubs & Bars during challenging times for the whole industry, will have a significant bearing on the future sustainability of our licensees’ businesses – and clearly we want to see our pubs thrive in the long-term. We’re delighted that the Scottish Government has allowed us to reopen but the restrictions are onerous. Pubs are in a fragile state. The Scottish Government urgently needs to provide additional financial assistance or scrap the nonsensical curfews and restrictions on drinking alcohol indoors that will hamper the recovery of Scotland’s pubs.
“The pandemic has shown the true partnership nature of leased and tenanted pubs. Throughout, we have tried to shoulder a fair share of the burden on Scotland’s pubs.”