Pubs and breweries need more financial support to survive new lockdown: CAMRA

Responding to the new national lockdown in England and the announcement for grants of up to £9,000 for hospitality businesses, CAMRA Chairman Nik Antona said:

“The national lockdown is yet another devastating blow for an already struggling industry, which follows hot on the heels of nearly a year of restrictions, curfews and forced closures.

“It is clear now more than ever that the Government must introduce a new, long-term and sector-specific financial support package to help these businesses survive the coming months. While one-off grant support is welcome, it is nowhere near enough to cover the haemorrhaging costs for pubs and breweries that don’t see any end in sight.

“What is particularly concerning in the latest announcement has been the confusion around whether pubs will be able to operate on a level playing field with supermarkets and off licences during this lockdown – as they have been able to previously. Takeaway sales, in sealed containers, for people to take home, were a real lifeline for the trade in previous lockdowns and restricting that route to market now would be a death knell for many pubs. This will once again provide an unfair advantage to supermarkets and off-licenses that don’t face similar restrictions.

“The Government must recognise that local pubs are a force for good and play an important role in bringing people together, tackling loneliness and social isolation, and supporting their local communities. When this nightmare is over, they will be vital to the nation’s healing process – so long as they are still standing.

“A new, dedicated and decent financial support package must reach our pubs and breweries quickly to save them from permanent closure and help hard-working licensees through this incredibly difficult time.”

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This morning (5th January 2021), we’ve written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to seek urgent clarification and assurances for licensees that they will able to operate on a level playing field during the latest lockdown in England, and to ask that brewers and cider makers also receive grant support. Read the letter below:

Dear Mr Sharma,

I am writing from CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, to seek urgent clarification and assurances for consumers and licensees across England that pubs and social clubs will be able to operate on a level playing field with supermarkets and off-licences during this latest lockdown.

This lockdown is necessary, and everyone must do what they can to stop the spread of Coronavirus. Publicans in England are ready to do this, as they have done twice before, and will continue to help the local response in their communities.

However, pubs and hospitality venues must be allowed to operate on a level playing field with supermarkets and off-licences. Just a few months ago, the Government made temporary alterations to premises licences, allowing pubs to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises, on a level playing field with supermarkets and off-licences. This move was welcomed by industry groups and consumers and was touted by Government at the time to allow some trade to continue.

The latest regulations and guidance appear to restrict pubs from selling any alcohol, except through delivery services, which is not a viable option for most licensees. This is grossly unfair and the latest in a series of measures that have restricted hospitality businesses, while handing an advantage to large supermarkets at the expenses of small, community businesses.

Please urgently clarify that hospitality businesses will be able to operate as off-licences, on a level playing field with supermarkets, selling alcohol in sealed containers for consumers to take home.

Underlying all of this is the need for an adequate, dedicated financial support package that must reach publicans, and brewers and other supply chain producers, as soon as possible.

One-off grant support announced this morning is welcome, but with hospitality businesses facing an indefinite closure period, this will not provide the certainty of adequate ongoing support to safeguard businesses and jobs. It is also unclear as to whether brewers and cider producers will be able to access the funding – please urge Department and Treasury colleagues to confirm that they will as soon as possible. As well as grant funding, the support package must include an extension of the VAT cut to include alcoholic drinks to support wet-led pubs, and it is essential that the business rates holiday for all hospitality businesses is continued for 2021/2022.

Pubs and social clubs will be a central part of the recovery from the pandemic – both for the mental and social wellbeing of communities and for the economy, but this will not happen if hardworking licensees cannot afford to open their doors again on the other side of this lockdown, whenever that may be.

As always, CAMRA, our members and beer and pub lovers across the UK want to support our community pubs, social clubs and the wider hospitality sector when it can reopen again.

Please ensure that licensees are treated fairly, and that a proper business support package is in place so that everyone will have a local to return to when it is safe to do so.

Yours sincerely,

Nik Antona

CAMRA Chairman

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Source: Bolton CAMRA Pub News

Tier announcement underlines the importance of financial support for pubs and brewers

Commenting on the announcement that almost all of England will be placed into Tier 2 and 3 restrictions, CAMRA National Chairman Nik Antona said: 

“After an agonising wait, licensees across the country have had their worst fears confirmed – in all but three council areas in the country, pubs will either be closed or only able to open if they are serving substantial meals. 

“This is especially devastating in the run up the Christmas, where people in Tier 3 areas won’t be able to go to the pub at all, and those in Tier 2 areas won’t be able to visit to socialise safely with those outside of their household – which will increase feelings of loneliness and social isolation after a year that has been tough for many.  

“CAMRA has been clear – we do not think that evidence has been produced to justify extra restrictions on hospitality, and particularly wet-led pubs, but if the Government wants to proceed, they must announce more financial help. 

“It is really very simple – hospitality businesses have been singled out for extra restrictions, so they must be given dedicated support.  

“This needs to take the form of increased grant funding to cover rent and costs, and include an extension to the business rates holiday, and an extension of the VAT cut to alcoholic drinks. 

“This is vital to ensure that communities will have locals to return to in 2021 and can once again reap the social and wellbeing benefits of pub–going.”

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Source: Bolton CAMRA Pub News

CAMRA welcomes the decision to allow beer and cider takeaway sales during lockdown

Commenting on the publication of lockdown regulations which state that alcohol can be sold as takeaway or delivery if it is pre-ordered by phone or online, CAMRA’s National Chairman Nik Antona said:

“I am delighted that the Government has listened to the concerns of thousands of CAMRA members, concerned pub-goers, and beer lovers who have e-mailed their MPs in the last 48 hours urging the Government to allow pubs and breweries to sell alcohol as takeaway during the second lockdown.

“This is a vital lifeline for local pubs and breweries across England over the coming four weeks, giving them a lifeline of income and allowing people to support local businesses.

“CAMRA continues to call on the Government to bring in a comprehensive, long-term financial support package to support all pubs and breweries through the lockdown and the tough months that will follow this winter. Without a sector-specific support package, we risk seeing thousands of pubs and breweries closing their doors for good.”

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Source: Bolton CAMRA Pub News

CAMRA slams proposed ban on takeaway beer sales for pubs and brewers

The Campaign for Real Ale has blasted the proposed ban on pubs and brewers selling takeaway beer during the impending lockdown in England, details of which were revealed over the weekend.  

The Campaign has now written to the Cabinet Office, which is at the heart of the Government’s coordination efforts to tackle COVID, to demand the removal of the unfair restriction. 

In the letter, concerns are raised that the ban for hospitality venues is unprecedented, unexplained, and will only benefit supermarkets and off-sales retailers at the expense of community pubs and local brewers.  

CAMRA National Chairman Nik Antona said: 

“Offering alcohol for takeaway was a lifeline for many pubs, and particularly breweries, during the first lockdown in England. It is a baffling and damaging decision to remove this option, particularly when other businesses such as supermarkets can continue to sell takeaway alcohol.  

“Pubs and breweries were already reporting losses and the risk of closure before Christmas, and this will only add to the risk of permanent closures within the next few months. CAMRA and the entire pub and brewery industry are now urging the Government to reverse this bizarre decision and ensure the survival of our pubs and breweries. 

“We are encouraging all concerned consumers to write to their MP and request the scrapping of the takeaway sales ban to give pubs and brewers in England a better chance of surviving the lockdown. This also needs to be accompanied with a sector-specific support package to avoid permanent closures, otherwise the damage to communities across the country will be irreparable.” 

Concerned pub goers and beer drinkers in England can email their MP and ask for the removal of the takeaway restrictions, and a proper support package for pubs and brewers here: https://camra.e-activist.com/page/68352/action/1  

The full text of the letter to the Minister for the Cabinet Office reads: 

Dear Michael Gove, 

We are writing from CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, regarding the proposed ban on hospitality venues offering takeaway alcohol during the impending lockdown in England. We are UK wide consumer group representing over 180,000 consumers and pub goers, and we campaign in support of the thousands of publicans and brewers across the country that have been providing a COVID secure, safe space for consumers, since reopening in July.  

Pub goers, brewers and publicans alike all want to stop the spread of COVID-19, but have continually been faced with extra restrictions on trade, without adequate evidence, and without an appropriate support package to compensate them for the impact that these restrictions have on trade. 

As the sector faces another full closure period, the proposed ban on hospitality venues offering takeaway alcohol (as they could during the first closure period) is yet another extra imposition on the industry, which is unprecedented and has been proposed without evidence or explanation.  

This will mean more beer will have to be poured down the drain, with the associated cost of lost stock, and another reduction in choice for consumers, and particularly of cask ale. This is a move that will only benefit supermarkets and off-sale retailers, at the expense of community pubs and local brewers.  

Please remove this unfair restriction immediately and urge colleagues to announce a comprehensive support package for pubs and brewers, to give them a better chance of surviving through this latest lockdown period.  

We will be writing to Ministerial colleagues in the coming days about a sector specific support package to avoid mass closures, and the need for a clear, evidenced roadmap out of lockdown that allows pubs and brewers to return to viability and reboot the economy. Without this. the damage to communities will be immeasurable, long-term, and ultimately extremely costly for Government. 

Yours sincerely, 

Nik Antona, CAMRA Chairman 

Tom Stainer, CAMRA Chief Executive 

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Source: Bolton CAMRA Pub News

Tier 3 Restrictions

It seems that for Bolton publicans it’s a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. No sooner has the total lockdown imposed so unfairly on Bolton’s pubs been released then we’re back into the highest level restrictions along with the rest of Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Lancashire. Whilst the restrictions were not unexpected and there is no doubt that some measures are needed to stop the spread of the virus there is still a lack of compelling evidence that closing hospitality settings has a significant impact on the rate of infection. Bolton suffered the most severe restrictions in the whole of England back in September and yet the infections continued to rise. Nevertheless, CAMRA does not advocate any action which might lead to a spread of the virus and we will have to work with the hospitality industry and politicians in the borough to try and ensure those who work in the bars and pubs which will be forced to close receive the support they deserve to survive the new lockdown. We must also recognise the indirect effect on our local breweries. A thriving brewing scene has developed in the area over the last few years but without pubs to sell to the future for some of these brewers is bleak. It would be a huge disappointment if these enthusiastic entrepreneurs were forced out of business through a lack of support to help them keep going.

CAMRA has again written to the town’s MP’s asking them to lobby the government for support for the people affected by this crisis. A copy of the e-mail, a version of which was sent to Chris Green, Yasmin Qureshi and Mark Logan is set out below. If you feel as strongly about this issue as we do, please take the time to write to your MP along the same lines seeking urgent action.

Dear Chris,

I wrote to you recently on behalf of the Bolton Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale regarding the local lockdown which targeted Bolton so unfairly. On behalf of the branch I would like to say a huge thank you for all your efforts in conjunction with the other MP’s and the Council in lobbying the Government to lift the lockdown. You have shown your clear personal commitment to this issue in resigning your post as Parliamentary Private Secretary in protest at the prospect of further restrictions.

Even though the local lockdown has been lifted, our pubs are, as you know, still fragile coming out of that second closure period, with the threat of another looming. Pubs, their staff and pub-goers are doing everything they can to make sure pubs are used safely and responsibly – but the extended closure period during the local lockdown and current restrictions on customer numbers are devastating pubs and brewers. Pubs feel that they have become the scapegoat for the pandemic.

The support announced by the Chancellor for pubs that are being forced to close temporarily is welcome and necessary – but we must face facts that this announcement isn’t going to be enough, on its own, to save our pubs from extinction. With a reduced trade and measures like the curfew damaging consumer confidence, many pubs and breweries will not last until Christmas. Nearly a quarter of all hospitality businesses say they won’t last another three months without support. That’s over 100 pubs and thousands of jobs at risk in Bolton alone. Without bespoke help for pubs, communities like ours will lose a key part of our social fabric, with people missing out on the wellbeing and mental health benefits of enjoying a pint with friends and family.

If this continues without any action, we could lose our local pubs, and publicans will lose their livelihoods.

That’s why CAMRA’s Save Our Pubs campaign is calling for a proper support package for all pubs and breweries including:

·Comprehensive job support for all pubs and breweries- including those allowed to remain open but which aren’t viable due to the current restrictions
·Cancellation of the business rates for another year
·Action to tackle the rents crisis facing the sector
·New hospitality grants to support all pubs and brewers through the next six months of restrictions.

You’re already aware that businesses in Bolton are being left behind so I’m asking you act now to save our local pubs, clubs and breweries.

As one of Bolton’s MP’s, please will you write to the Chancellor, and ask him a Parliamentary Question if you are able, to urge him to announce a support package for pubs and brewers – before it is too late and they are lost forever.

Thanks again for all your help and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,
John Mitchell,
Public Affairs Officer,
Bolton CAMRA

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Source: Bolton CAMRA Pub News

Bolton Lockdown

Bolton CAMRA shares the frustration of the town’s publicans with the current situation in the town. Even with the huge spike in infections, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that a different regime is required in Bolton than that imposed in the rest of  the North West  and we have been urging our local MP’s, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and the Leader of Bolton Council, David Greenhalgh to lobby the government for three things.

  • the release of the local lockdown at the earliest opportunity, without prejudicing the infection levels, to bring it in line with the rest of the country so that hospitality businesses can operate on a level playing field with those in neighbouring boroughs.
  • to make available details of the additional funding for businesses forced to close as soon as possible so that those who are now facing cash flow problems because of the lockdown are not further disadvantaged.
  • a review of the amount of funding available to ensure that hospitality businesses are not left with unsustainable costs which may result in some of our best loved community facilities unable to survive.

CAMRA has received positive responses and all our local politicians are calling for Bolton’s hospitality industry to be brought in line with the rest of the country. CAMRA does not advocate any changes which might lead to an increase in the spread of the virus and people’s health is paramount but it does feel like Bolton has been singled out in this regard. Many people are simply crossing into adjoining boroughs and spending their money there rather than in Bolton. This is not good for Bolton’s businesses and does nothing to restrict the spread of the virus.

Below is a copy of the email, a version of which was sent to each of the local politicians, which  sets out our position.

I am writing on behalf of the Bolton Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale. I am sure that you share CAMRA’s concerns over the plight in which Bolton’s hospitality industry now finds itself.

CAMRA understands the dilemma which the government faces in trying to keep infection levels under control and would not advocate anything which might lead to an increase in those levels. Whilst certain pubs have been identified as potential drivers of the increased rates of infection in Bolton, the blanket lockdown does feel a bit like a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Even though Bolton had the highest levels of infection in the country, one can’t help feeling, particularly now that the whole country has been made subject to increased yet lesser restrictions, that Bolton seems to have been singled out for the harshest measures. It was particularly disappointing to hear politicians on national television and in parliament yesterday referring to Bolton having been subject to pubs closing early for 10 days, apparently unaware that the pubs are completely closed. It is little wonder that some publicans have posted on Facebook that they feel they have been forgotten.

You will understand the frustration of the business owners who find themselves closed down again having only just got used to operating their premises in a Covid compliant way. I am personally aware of publicans who have made significant investment in facilities to give them a fighting chance of operating a profitable business within the restraints that Covid imposes. Now they have had their opportunity to make a return on that investment suddenly taken away. Restaurants and pubs in the outer areas of the borough can also see their business leaking into the adjoining districts as people make short journeys to the nearest places just over the border which are still open.

I know that additional grants are being made available to those businesses which have been forced to close. My understanding is that this amounts to up to £1500 over three weeks depending on turnover. I do not know whether this is an indication that the lockdown will be lifted after three weeks but in any event, as the furlough scheme continues to wind down, this amount is unlikely to cover the costs these businesses are going to meet under the lockdown. It is also not clear whether those settings that offer takeaways are technically open and therefore ineligible. Furthermore, the Council website says that details of how this funding can be accessed are not yet available which does not help when those costs need to be met now.

The Bolton branch of CAMRA would appreciate your support in the following areas.

  • Lobbying the government for the release of the local lockdown at the earliest opportunity, without prejudicing the infection levels, to bring it in line with the rest of the country so that hospitality businesses can operate on a level playing field with those in neighbouring boroughs.
  • Asking the government to make details of the additional funding available as soon as possible so that business who are now facing cash flow problems because of the lockdown are not further disadvantaged.
  • Asking the government to review the amount of funding available to ensure that hospitality businesses are not left with unsustainable costs which may result in some of our best loved community facilities unable to survive.

Although I am writing on behalf of the Bolton branch, any lessons learned from the Bolton experience would assist CAMRA nationally in supporting pubs across the country if they face similar issues. In particular, more transparency in how decisions to impose such measures are reached would help us understand how we can avoid them in the future. I would reiterate that CAMRA does not advocate any measures which might lead to an increase in the infection levels but I hope we can rely on your support to help Bolton’s hospitality industry survive this current crisis.

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Source: Bolton CAMRA Pub News

CAMRA responds to the Government’s 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants

In response to the Government announcement that pubs and restaurants will be forced to close at 10pm from Thursday onwards, CAMRA National Chairman Nik Antona commented:

“As things stand this morning, hospitality is the only sector to be subject to new restrictions. This will be devastating news for thousands of publicans across England who have been willing to do whatever is necessary to provide a safe, Covid-secure place for people to enjoy the wellbeing benefits of having a pint with friends and family.

“The Government should not impose arbitrary restrictions that target one sector without explanation or evidence, which, so far, we have not seen. We are now calling for a new financial support package to be introduced for pubs immediately, which includes the extension of the furlough scheme and the cancellation of business rates for another year, or they risk countless pub closures and job losses.”

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Source: Bolton CAMRA Pub News

Bolton pubs need financial help to survive local lockdown closures

Commenting on the Government’s decision to close pubs in Bolton as part of local lockdown measures, CAMRA’s National Chairman Nik Antona said: 

“Many pubs have struggled to re-open this summer, having invested their dwindling reserves to do so safely and securely in line with COVID-safe guidance. A second shutdown in Bolton is a devastating blow for these pubs and local people’s livelihoods. 

“Given the significant impact a second shutdown would have on the industry, the Government must introduce a new financial support package and extend the furlough scheme for pubs that are forced to close in local lockdowns. This is the only way to avoid permanent closures and further job losses.   

“Pub companies must also immediately cancel rent for tied pub tenants in Bolton. Tenants shouldn’t be forced to pay rent if they have no turnover. 

“CAMRA continues to encourage people to use pubs in safe and responsible way. While people in Bolton are unable to enjoy a pub pint with friends and family at the moment, they can still show support for their local pub by using takeaway or delivery services.”

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Source: Bolton CAMRA Pub News

Campaigning – Small Brewers’ Relief

The Government recently announced a review of Small Brewers’ Relief (SBR).  This is a scheme which allows small breweries, producing less than 5,000HL a year, to pay a lower rate of duty (50%).  SBR has been instrumental in helping many small breweries to establish, compete and flourish. The announcement has already proposed the reduction of the SBR threshold to 2,100HL.  This will result in large increases in costs for many breweries, many of them familiar names. 

In a letter to Kemi Badenoch MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, CAMRA joined calls for the Government to rethink its plans to remove SBR from the smallest brewers to allow larger brewers to pay less, and to publish more information about any other proposed changes as soon as possible.

You can help support small brewers by signing the petition to reverse the change at   https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/334066

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Source: Bolton CAMRA Pub News

Pubs. Pints. People.

The Campaign for Real Ale’s new podcast Pubs. Pints. People. brings you interesting stories each week about the world of beer, cider and pubs. Tune in every Tuesday with hosts Katie Wiles, Ant Fiorillo and Matt Bundy as they chat to special guests and learn about beer writing, brewing jobs, cider making and more. Each episode includes a ‘dive’ into CAMRA’s 50 year archive and a beer and food recipe, courtesy of food editor Sue Nowak.  Click here for the link to listen to the Podcasts.

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Source: Bolton CAMRA Pub News