Sunak support package ‘doesn’t even touch the sides’, pub owners say

By Max McLean, PA

People in charge of pubs in England have criticised Rishi Sunak’s expanded job support scheme, saying their industry needs more financial help.

Workers in pubs, restaurants and other businesses which are forced to close under new coronavirus restrictions will have two-thirds of their wages paid by the Government, the Chancellor announced.

It comes ahead of the expected closure next week of hospitality venues in coronavirus hotspots and follows intense pressure on the Government for a targeted extension of the furlough scheme.

Ministers will also increase cash grants to businesses in England which are forced to close to support with fixed costs – but, for some, the new measures have done little to assuage their fears.

“No, it’s not enough, definitely not enough, it doesn’t even touch the sides,” said Mel Green, 41, manager of The Black Bull in Otley, West Yorkshire. “I think there needs to be more financial support.

“£2,000 every four weeks isn’t going to cut it. Two-thirds of somebody’s wage isn’t going to cut it. You’ve got to remember that we’re in a trade where everyone’s on national minimum wage pretty much.

“They’re the ones that are losing out. A lot of them are living hand to mouth already and they’ve already had hours reduced.”

While Ms Green said the support for pubs forced to close was insufficient, she said that in the current climate closing was preferable to staying open for some.

“It’s all well and good putting the restrictions in, table service, taking details at the door,” she said. “You double your staff level for half your customer base.

“I think most people would prefer to be shut. The way I’ve always thought of it is, if it costs me more to open the doors, I’ll shut them. It’s damage limitation.”

An employee pulls a pint in the Tib Street Tavern in Manchester, as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announces the government will pay two thirds of the wages of staff in pubs, restaurants and other businesses if they are forced to close under new coronavirus restrictions. Cities in northern England and other areas suffering a surge in Covid-19 cases may have pubs and restaurants temporarily closed to combat the spread of the virus
(Danny Lawson/PA)

The effort pubs and restaurants have put into abiding by social distancing measures as well as track and trace is something others believe should be rewarded with financial support, with some saying their trade has fallen by as much as two-thirds during the pandemic.

“We’re probably doing policing better than any other industry, but the simple fact is you’ve got the supermarkets, the off-licences, all open, they’re not doing social distancing, they’re not doing track and trace,” said Carol Ross, 60, landlady at the Roscoe Head in Liverpool.

“At least in our industry we police our own. People are not coming to the pub anyway. We’re going above and beyond in protecting people here in pubs.

“We need a proper package. All those politicians who make the decisions should come to the pubs in every city that they’re closing down and see how much of a job we’re doing for a third of the money.”