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24th June 2020

Relief for some pubs, but others can’t open

Some pubs able to reopen with limited trade, which is welcome, but many pubs can’t – Government must now act to save thousands of pubs

The Prime Minister has today announced that pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants can re-open, with restrictions, on Saturday 4th July – something that allows some pubs to open, which is welcome, but many others will struggle and require ongoing support from the Government and sector.

The reopening is subject to a 1 metre social distancing limit plus a ban on bar service.  Some pubs will therefore be opening again, which is a great relief where they can do so (for licensees and customers) but others won’t or actually can’t open under the restrictions, depending on their layout – and face closure as a result. So whilst welcoming the fact that some pubs will be able to trade and serve their communities, the Campaign for Pubs have called for support to save thousands of pubs, until trading gets back to normal post Covid-19. Licensees and brewers are also making clear that 11 days notice is simply not enough – especially with the Government now expecting pubs to collect customer data.

The Prime Minister’s announcement also stated that bar service is banned, something that is of course standard in all pubs, and that pubs can only operate table service. The announcement also stated that the Government are expecting pubs to collect customer data, and have pledged to help pubs to do so. The details of this help need to be released very urgently, because with some pubs set to open in just 11 days, the unprecedented task of such data collection and management may prove an insurmountable burden on small businesses that have already had to invest in alterations to allow opening in reduced trade. There is still a lack of clarity over a number of things including whether licensing restrictions will be eased to allow outdoor service and use of all available spaces to make it more possible to trade viably.

The 11-day notice is also unfair to independent brewers, many of whom asked for longer to be able to brew and supply pubs, which puts them at a unfair disadvantage compared to the large and global breweries.

The Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign to promote, support and protect pubs, published 10 Points to Save Pubs – #10PointstoSavePubs last week- ten key calls to the Government and the pub sector to help pubs and publicans and to prevent many pub closures.  The first two calls – for an immediate announcement confirming reopening plans and for the social distancing rule to be dropped to 1 metre from 2 metres has now been met but with no clear guidance on key things such as customer data collection or liability. The Campaign for Pubs are making clear that this guidance is needed now and that a proper package of support is now needed, with pubs facing reduced trade and some unable to trade viably at all.

The 10 Points to Save Pubs calls for a rent-free period for all pubs and a statutory right to a rent review for all pub tenants, all of whom will be facing restrictions on their ability to trade. It also calls for 5% VAT for 12 months to help pubs and the hospitality and tourism sectors get back on their feet.  Further, it requests the Government to announce hugely overdue business rates reform to commence by April 2021, and for business rate relief for pubs until a new system comes in. In addition, with pubs now facing the very real threat that property owners and large pubcos will look to close and redevelop many pubs at this difficult time, a 12-month moratorium on all change of use for pubs is called for to protect and preserve valued community locals up and down the country. This is especially vital considering the very worrying recent news that the Government is considering moving to a “zonal” planning system where key decisions are taken away from local councils and handed to development corporations, something which is strongly opposed by the Campaign for Pubs. Following such a moratorium, the Campaign for Pubs are campaigning for meaningful planning reform to stop viable and wanted pubs being converted, developed or demolished.

The full list of the 10 Points to Save Pubs is: 

  1. definite date for opening – now delivered
  1. Social distancing of 1 metre – now delivered
  1. Clear full guidance for pubs and insurance companies – not yet delivered – pubs need real clarity about any physical infrastructure requirements, and also about specific responsibilities and liability issues, so that they can be properly insured under fair policies which will be honoured
  1. Relaxation of licensing restrictions where extra spaces would help smaller pubs operate more viably and safely – not confirmed
  1. strong mandatory Covid-19 rent code of conduct including a statutory right to a rent review for all pub tenants – must be delivered
  1. A rent-free period for all pubs, and an extended period of protection from landlords if rent cannot be paid – must be urgently delivered
  1. Continued financial support for staff – extended fully-paid furlough where pubs are unable to viably/safely trade due to continued Government restrictions – must be delivered
  1. VAT to 5% for at least 12 months – the only sensible way to help with reduced margins, as any price increases would reduce trade even further – must be delivered
  1. Business rates reform – announced now and implemented in April 2021 – and rates relief for all pubs until a reformed system comes in – must be announced, then delivered
  1. A 12 month ban on all change of use for pubs – pubs need protection in the planning system now even more than ever – must be urgently implemented as pubs are already being forced to close and licensees are already walking away and being driven out by rent demands

The Campaign for Pubs is urging all pub lovers to back the #10PointstoSavePubs to stop many pub closures – and to call on their MPs and the Government to back them too – and save pubs.
The Campaign for Pubs is a dynamic mass membership group, open to all who love and care about pubs.  Unlike any other sector organisation, it unites publicans, pub campaigners, customers and suppliers, including some of the UK’s leading smaller brewers. The Campaign for Pubs exists to provide a #realvoiceforpubs and to campaign for a better, freer and fairer, more sustainable pub sector. The Campaign for Pubs’ mission statement lays out this powerful vision.

The Campaign for Pubs costs £25 a year to join, or £40 for a couple and members become part of a national network of those who care about pubs and their future.

Commenting, Paul Crossman, Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of 3 pubs in York said:
“As Chair of the Campaign for Pubs, and also a practising publican myself, I welcome today’s announcement by the Prime Minister and this move by the Government to help enable those pubs that can open safely and viably under the new measures to do so. The pub trade can only act in accordance with Government advice and today’s announcement was necessarily cautious, and as a result it means that many publicans will need to make a decision as to whether the guidelines will work for their individual business or not. For a great many pubs, especially smaller community pubs which generally rely on key periods of high-density trade to be viable, these measures will not make a return to sustainable trade possible. We trust the government will respect the tough decisions that will have to be made in many cases, and will recognise the importance of continuing to protect these normally viable and hugely valued community assets by extending the support necessary to allow them to survive and reopen when the time is right.”

Commenting, Phil Saltonstall, MD of Brass Castle Brewery and Brewer Coordinator for the Campaign for Pubs said:
“I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement for the direction that it now provides us in beginning to reopen UK pubs.  This announcement however, comes far too late for many smaller independent breweries to meet the July 4th opening date – where beer production times are usually significantly longer than large industrial breweries.  The government has failed to meet its own timetable and this late announcement now favours those larger breweries.  We are very conscious of the risks that we have to manage now to protect our hospitality workers, as well as our customers, as we seek cautiously to reopen pubs, taphouses and other community hubs.  For many venues, those continued risks and necessary restrictions will make reopening unviable, if not impossible.”

Victoria MacDonald, Campaign for Pubs Committee member and licensee of two pubs (one an 11 bedroom inn) in Norfolk said: 
“Giving publicans just 11 days notice is really unhelpful, but to announce also that pubs have to    collect customer data is just not reasonable. The Government themselves have failed to get a track and trace system in place, yet now expect already stressed licensees to do this for them? It really isn’t good enough and many pubs won’t be able to open so there must be a package of support for pubs. If the Government wants to preserve our valuable pub culture, it needs to act and back the Campaign for Pubs 10 Points to Save Pubs”.


Notes to editors, Twitter and Facebook are @campaignforpubs

The Campaign for Pubs is a member organisation of the British Pub Confederation (the Confederation of independent organisations representing pubs and pub campaigners) and the Campaign for Pubs will administer and support the ongoing work of the Confederation to further strengthen representation for pubs and publicans.

For more information, contact media