Over 19,000 British pubs may never reopen without extra support

Four in 10 British pubs won’t survive beyond September unless they get extra support from the government to see them through the lockdown, the industry’s trade body has said.

The British Beer and Pubs Association said a survey of its members found that 19,000 out of the UK’s 47,000 pubs believe they may be forced to shut their doors for good within months, at a cost of 320,000 jobs.

The government is preparing to announce a gradual easing of lockdown measures that could lead to pubs starting to reopen by autumn.

But the BBPA said that even this would leave pubs on a knife-edge, with many expecting to run out of cash before the end of September.

“Nearly half of the UK’s pubs could close unless the government does more to help them,” said the BBPA chief executive, Emma McClarkin. “For the sake of communities and jobs across the UK – as well as the very institution of the great British pub – the government cannot allow that to happen.

“If the government takes decisive action now to properly help pubs both through the current lockdown and when social distancing restrictions are in place, then these pubs and jobs can be saved.”

The BBPA is calling for a series of measures amounting to a de facto bailout of the UK pubs industry, which had been in long-term decline until three months before lockdown when figures suggested a nascent recovery.

The government should extend a grant scheme for hospitality businesses to see pubs through the end of lockdown and a short period afterwards, the trade association said.

It also wants the scheme enlarged to capture bigger pubs, which would make an extra 10,000 eligible for support.

The BBPA also called for pubs to have access to the job retention scheme beyond June and urged longer-term measures such as reduced VAT rates for the hospitality sector and a cut in beer duty.

“Pubs are losing cash fast,” said McClarkin. “The government must understand that the current financial support they are giving, although welcome, does not go anywhere near enough to help pubs in an extended lockdown or when they can reopen under social distancing restrictions.

“Our ask to the government is clear – recognise the real jeopardy facing the great British pub and act now to save it, or risk losing many locals and their communities for ever.”