BBPA says targeting pubs is wrong & will lead to permanent closures

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), the leading trade association representing brewers and pubs, has responded to the Prime Minister outlining a new tier system and associated restrictions for local lockdowns across England.

Boris Johnson stated that the highest level of the new system – ‘very high’ – would see pubs close. The measure will be applied to Merseyside on Wednesday, meaning pubs and bars in the city will be forced to close from then. The BBPA estimates there are 970 pubs in the areas affected by the lockdown.

Responding to the announcement, the BBPA said that measures which single out pubs and bars are wrong. It has called for an evidence-based, proportionate response to the virus – citing latest PHE figures released on Friday 9 October showing that pubs and hospitality venues are not major sources of COVID-19 infections – representing just 3% of total transmissions.

It urges Government to recognise the crucial role local pubs play in helping communities through this difficult time providing them with a safe space to meet and helping combat the risk of loneliness.

It says that based on this evidence, pubs and bars should not be singled out for closure – especially as they are well regulated, adhering to all safety measures including table service only and the rule of six, and are fully participating in NHS test and trace. It has consistently expressed concern that if pubs are forced to close people will socialise in unregulated and unsafe environments - even if told to avoid other households.

According to the trade association, the additional restrictions outlined in both the very high and high category of lockdowns will hit pubs – and the communities they serve – hard. Many pubs were already struggling for survival with low consumer confidence, the 10pm curfew, rule of six and limited operating space due to social distancing.

Even if a pub is not forced to close, the additional restriction of households not being allowed to mix inside will reduce consumer confidence and restrict trade further.

The trade association has said it is also imperative that the Government is clear on the benchmarks between the different tiers.

Considering this latest announcement, it says a stronger financial package of support than that announced by the Chancellor on Friday 9th October will be needed. According to the BBPA, the cash grants for businesses required to close in local lockdowns worth up to £3k a month will not be sufficient to cover high fixed costs and losses incurred during closure, especially compared to the support given in the full national lockdown earlier this year.

It also said this support would need to be available to those pubs facing additional restrictions under tier two of the Government’s new local lockdown system. It said it believed that support would only be given to those pubs forced to close as part of tier three, even though there would be thousands of pubs in tier two with unviable businesses if households were prevented from meeting inside them on top of the existing restrictions.

The BBPA also stated it has major concerns that many businesses may not be able to access the support due to State Aid caps. Likewise, it says more regular reviews of the local lockdowns will be needed than one a month, calling for reviews every two weeks.

Emma McClarkin, BBPA's Chief Executive, said, “Singling out pubs for closure and further restrictions is simply the wrong decision and grossly unfair. It’s why we are calling for a proportionate response to the virus based on tangible transmission evidence.

“Public Health England figures released on Friday show hospitality was responsible for just 3% of total transmissions. Where is the merit in closing pubs to combat the virus based on that information? Especially when they are providing a safe and regulated place for people to meet at.

“Local lockdowns that close pubs will devastate our sector and the communities it serves. And most pubs will struggle to sustain viable business under tier two with their trade being so heavily impacted. Thousands of local pubs and jobs will be lost for good.

“It remains the case that even before these new local lockdown restrictions, pubs were already struggling for survival with low consumer confidence, the 10pm curfew, rule of six and limited operating space due to social distancing. For those pubs facing the middle tier of restrictions, they will come under even more pressure as customers from two different households will not be able to meet indoors in them.'

McClarkin continued, “If the Government is really going to go ahead and force much of our sector to close, then a far stronger financial package of support is going to be needed than what the Chancellor already announced. The cash grants for businesses forced to close will not cover high fixed costs and write off costs for and are lower when compared to the grant support given during the national lockdown.

'Likewise grants and the additional job retention support should be available to those pubs facing the middle tier of restrictions and the inevitable further decline in their revenue they face.

“Accessing that support remains a critical concern for us too. We fear many businesses won't be eligible for the support due to State Aid caps. It is also imperative that the Government is clear on the benchmarks between the different tiers.'

McClarkin finished, “If regions across England do go into lockdown, then they will need to be reviewed far more frequently than once a month. Reviewing the lockdowns at least every two weeks would give closed pubs a glimmer of hope that they can return back to trade sooner than later.”