Pub bosses say the Chancellor’s new measures don’t go far enough as they prepare for the start of a curfew they claim will devastate the sector.
Starting tonight – Thursday, September 24 – businesses selling food or drink including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants must close at 10pm and not reopen before 5am.
This will include takeaways but delivery services taking food to people’s homes can continue after 10pm.
In licensed premises, food and drink must be ordered from, and served at, a table.
The curfew also applies to social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls.
However, industry bossses fear the rule will see the loss of thousands of jobs and venues unless further financial support is offered.
Pub and hospitality trade bodies the British Beer & Pub Association, UKHospitality and the British Institute of Innkeeping say almost a quarter of their members believe their businesses will fail by the end of the year without further Government support.
A survey found that on average, businesses believe their workforce will be 25 per cent lower by February 2021 compared with February this year – a loss of 675,000 jobs in a year.
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pubs Association, said: “A 10pm curfew will devastate our sector during an already challenging environment for pubs.
“Removing a key trading hour on top of fragile consumer confidence and the reduced capacity pubs already face will put thousands more pubs and jobs at risk.
“During the current circumstances every hour of trading it crucial to the survival of pubs – for many this curfew will render their businesses unviable.”
And she said Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s latest plans did not go far enough.
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Ms McClarkin explained: “Some elements of the Chancellor’s plan today are welcome, but do not go nearly far enough to save the thousands of pubs and jobs that we have highlighted are at serious risk.
“The VAT cut extension on food and soft drinks will help our sector and it is great to see the Chancellor answer our urgent call for this. However, the extension is only for six weeks and only takes us through to the end of the current restrictions – it needs to be much longer to help our sector recover.
“Furthermore, where those pubs and bars that are not food focused are concerned, the Chancellor has missed a golden opportunity to extend the VAT cut to include alcohol.
“The new flexible job support scheme is needed considering that the furlough scheme will end next month, but with a lower level of funding from Government that will cost employers more, we are not confident it is enough to protect jobs in the current trading conditions. We will need to closely monitor the effectiveness of this scheme with our members and invite the Government to work with us if changes to the scheme are required.
“As brewing businesses are also greatly impacted by the curfew and the tighter restrictions pubs now face, they need more support too. With no direct support for them in today’s announcement, it is imperative that a beer duty cut is top of the list for the Chancellor at the next Budget, which would greatly help wet led pubs too.
And she added: “It is very concerning to see the Chancellor not extend the business rates relief for pubs. Pubs now face a cliff edge come March 2021 where they will have to pay on average £25,000 each per rate paying pub. That’s a cost of £800 million to the sector which will be the final straw for many pubs. We need the Chancellor to review this and extend the business rates holiday as a matter of urgency.
“Increasing access to Government loans, and extending the lengths to pay them back, will help some pubs, but for many, taking on further debt in the form of a loan isn’t even a viable option – particularly at this stage.
“We need the Government to recognise that consumer confidence is fragile and the additional restrictions that could be in place for a further six months will only make this worse.
“We are asking them to consider ways they can help boost consumer confidence including running the successful Eat Out To Help Out scheme again and offering sector specific grants for pub businesses.”