I met this morning with the Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, Emma McClarkin, to discuss the impact of the return of the tiered system tomorrow.
Emma and Josh Green, the BBPA's Public Affairs Manager, set out clearly to me the industry's concerns about the restrictions being brought in across England through the tiers, and particularly what this means for Tier 2 areas like London. This is further to the recent conversations I have had with Stonegate pubs, Young's pubs, the G-A-Y brand, and my meeting with the APPG Beer.
The BBPA is specifically concerned about the variations in the regulations, particularly that alcohol can now be served in music and sports venues without the need for a substantial meal and yet pubs remain unable to do so. Their view is that the assessment modelling for the risk factor in pubs seems to have been based on behaviours in pubs prior to COVID-secure measures (such as table-only service, restricted numbers, sanitisation procedures, etc.) being put in place. It is clear - from speaking to publicans in Carshalton and Wallington - that pubs are desperate to open and begin serving their communities again; some £450m has been spent by the industry already in making their venues COVID-secure.
Whilst the additional package of support announced today for wet-led pubs has been welcomed, the roughly £1k per pub, the BBPA and industry remains concerned that this is not enough to enable the majority of pubs to survive the winter period. Josh and Emma informed me that the average pub takings in December are around £47k, with fixed monthly costs varying considerably - based on size, contracts, etc. - between £4k and £22k. The BBPA are clear that pubs need a more substantial package of financial assistance to begin to cover the impact of the tiered restrictions, and they would like to see longer term measures brought in - such as extending the VAT cut beyond March, extending the business rates holiday beyond March, and of course cutting the beer duty rate - in addition to the further short-term support the BBPA feels is required.
I have already made direct representations on behalf of the pubs industry to the Prime Minister and to the Chancellor, and I am going to continue to do everything I can to support the Great British Pub as we move through toward the end of the pandemic. I am clear that we need a road map to re-opening the industry, a review of the Tiering restrictions in Tier 2, and another look at the support available would be widely welcomed.