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Pubs group boss calls for VAT cut on beer as premises reopen

PUBLISHED: 17:02 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:29 08 July 2020

Greene King pub The Greengage in Tollgate Lane, Bury St Edmunds, which has been reopened  Picture: GREENE KING

Greene King pub The Greengage in Tollgate Lane, Bury St Edmunds, which has been reopened Picture: GREENE KING

Greene King

A pubs and beer giant called for a massive VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism sector to be extended to booze as it began reopening premises in its home town of Bury St Edmunds.

A Greene King pub adhering to the strict new post-lockdown guidelines  Picture: ADAM SMYTHA Greene King pub adhering to the strict new post-lockdown guidelines Picture: ADAM SMYTH

Greene King – which is relaunching several of its managed pubs in the town – welcomed the slashing of VAT from 20% to just 5% for six months on food and soft drinks, accommodation, and visits to attractions such as cinemas, theme parks and zoos.

But chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision not to include a cut on alcohol VAT in his bid to stimulate the ailing UK economy was “disappointing”, admitted Greene King boss Nick Mackenzie.

MORE – Pub group upbeat as it emerges from ‘horrendous’ lockdown period

“The new eating-out discount will be a great encouragement for customers to support the nation’s pubs at this vital time,” he said. But he added: “While the cut to VAT on food is great news for the hospitality sector, it’s disappointing that it doesn’t extend to beer, given the heavy tax burden on brewers.”

The company – which employs around 38,000 people across its brewery and pubs operations – has not made staff at its managed pubs redundant, and is instead returning them gradually to the workplace under the government’s flexible furlough scheme, a spokesman confirmed.

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, would have liked to have seen a cut in beer tax  Picture: ADAM SMYTHNick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, would have liked to have seen a cut in beer tax Picture: ADAM SMYTH

The flexible furlough runs until the end of October, but now the chancellor has added another sweetener to employers in the form of a £1k payout for those who keep on furloughed staff until the end of January next year.

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The group reopened nearly 1,300 of its 1,700 managed pubs on July 6. More pubs are scheduled to reopen later in July.

But the hospitality sector “is by no means out of the woods”, Mr Mackenzie warned, after three months of closure due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Dog & Partridge, the Fox, the Bushel, the Spread Eagle, the Greengage and the Tollgate in Bury St Edmunds were among the first wave of pubs to reopen.

But customers and staff are now subject to the pub giant’s Pub Safe scheme to ensure hygiene and safety, with new layouts to limit the chances of people getting too close to each other.

Andy Wilson, managing director of destination food brands, said they were delighted to be able to welcome customers after a long period of uncertainty.

“We know how much the local pub means to the British people; they are more than just a building, they are at the very heart of their communities.

“Of course, customers will notice some differences when they return, but it’s important that alongside implementing these changes we maintain the very essence of the great British pub.”


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