UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that £1,000 ($1,335) will be made available to pubs in England that are suffering due to new lockdown restrictions was slammed by representatives of the hospitality industry and small businesses for not going far enough.
Johnson has promised “wet pubs,” those that don’t serve food, a one-off payment of £1,000 in December, noting that the hospitality sector has been hit hard in the pandemic.
Wet pubs will be unable to open if they are in Tier 2 or Tier 3 areas under the new system of restrictions from 2 December.
Johnson was speaking before MPs vote on the tier system of coronavirus restrictions proposed for England.
FSB’s national chair, Mike Cherry, said the £1,000 figure needs to be “quadrupled at a bare minimum” if it is to have any “genuine positive impact” for businesses.
“These funds would only cover the cost of a single keg of beer and very little more, which will come as little comfort to pubs who churn out multiple kegs a day during the festive period,” he said.
He added that wet pubs been “left high and dry” and will struggle to survive during what would normally be a busy and bustling holiday period.
“These have been incredibly difficult times for all small businesses across the country, and the government needs to produce funds and responses that genuinely save jobs, businesses and livelihoods rather than just act as a temporary sticking plaster.
“The next few weeks, for many, are normally the busiest of the entire year, and we need to see a pro-business government act now, before it’s too late,” he said.
Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, said the one-off payment “does not even count as a token gesture. Equivalent to just 1.1% of last year’s takings, it falls far short of the bare minimum required to keep these businesses alive.”
The organisation warned that the new restrictions will see 98% of the hospitality sector in either Tier 2 (77%) or Tier 3 (21%), leading to a drop in trade for the whole of December of £7.8bn if left unchanged.
Meanwhile the Campaign for Real Ale said the government needs to introduce a “new, decent and long-term financial support package” for wet pubs and called its measures “draconian.”
Pubs have already had to adapt or face crippling fines, as restrictions over the summer stipulated people could only meet in groups if they sat outside.
In October, nearly a third of Britain's licensed premises were forced to shut. A study by consultancies CGA and AlixPartners showed that 69.9% of Britain’s licensed premises were trading at the end of October 2020, a fall of more than ten percentage points on sites open a month earlier (80.4%), and equivalent to nearly 12,000 sites closing their doors that month.
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