I was very grateful to Simon Longbottom, the CEO, for taking time to speak with me and set out his company's position and concerns about the pending return of the tiered system of restrictions. These are very similar to those of Young's and of other publicans I have spoken with, including all those I met at the recent meeting the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group.
I entirely agree with Simon that 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 welcome.
The hospitality sector accounts for only 4 per cent of the national infection rate, and I agree that they have done much to make their businesses COVID-secure. Simon told me that over 80 per cent of Stonegate customers have reported that they feel their pubs are a safe and clean environment; over the past few weeks in Wales, in what was the equivalent of England's Tier 1, there was not one single case in any of the more than 120 pubs they run in that country that was traced back to either staff or customers.
The industry more widely has spent some £450m on COVID-secure measures to ensure that pubs can reopen safely; and there are concerns about the implications of the Tier 2 restrictions.
Simon has set out five key measures that he feels are necessary to ensure the short and long-term survival of the pubs industry; from speaking with publicans in Carshalton and Wallington, and with other pub chains, I know these are widely supported:
- Compensation for businesses that have been compelled to close and for those unable to operate profitably because of restrictions;
- Permission to sell alcoholic drinks outside without the need for a table meal;
- Lifting the ban on indoor household mixing in Tier 2 areas;
- Relaxation of the curfew during the festive period from Christmas to New Year’s Eve;
- Regular review of the Tiering with full transparency to allow pubs to trade as freely as possible and to prepare for changes in the conditions for trading
I have written to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor and asked for urgent consideration to be given to the measures. You can read these below.
I am going to continue to do everything I can to mitigate the impact of the tiers, particular Tier 2, and to press the Government to look at the support for the sector again.