Pub owners warn of massive job losses as they plunge into the red
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Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk and pubs could go to the wall after the country prepares to enter tier 2 or 3 restrictions post-lockdown, the industry has warned.
Suffolk and Essex pub owners have been left reeling after the counties were placed under tier 2 — meaning no social mixing and drinks can only be served with substantial meals.
Pub owners complained of being weighed by debt and fearful for the future — with Bury St Edmunds-based pubs giant Greene King warning the measure would put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.
MORE — Drinking pubs ‘hung out to dry’ as tier 2 restrictions imposed in Suffolk and EssexAnd Piers Baker who owns the Sun Inn in Dedham and the Church Street Tavern in Colchester, was scathing of the measures, claiming they were not evidence-based.
“I along with the rest of hospitality am extremely frustrated and angry about the whole situation and the decision-making on this by the government. We are clearly being targeted or used as an excuse by them for saying we are doing what we can. The evidence doesn’t stack up.
“My customers have told me they feel safer with us than going to the supermarket. Ours is a controlled environment. We have got full table service, we have got a one way system in place.
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There had been no incidences of coronavirus among his 50-strong workforce, he added.
“It’s really unfathomable — it’s just unfair.
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“It just makes running our business exceedingly difficult. We have already taken on substantial debt to get through this period and we are going to make a loss operating in tier 2. It would be easier for us to shut and less expensive but we feel a duty towards our guests who will come out and want to come out,” he said. “It’s just a community service we are offering for the next month.”
He had some 20 to 50 regulars who came just for drinks or a coffee and these would have to be turned away, he said. “They are just not going to be able to come any more. It’s really demoralising.”
Now his hopes are pinned on getting in enough single households to make opening financially worthwhile, but he admitted it was “a risk we have got to run”.
He didn’t want to criticise other sectors but asked why sports events and gyms could open but not pubs as he questioned the government’s rationale.
“It’s all our suppliers as well. I know of at least five or six of our suppliers who rely on pubs. They are really struggling because they haven’t had any relief — they are on their knees.”
And he called for more financial relief from government for the industry. For the latest lockdown he had received £3k worth of relief but £2k of this had gone on National Insurance and pensions payment before overheads were considered, he said.
Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie warned of dire consequences for the industry.
“With 99% of the country in tiers two or three, this remains lockdown in all but name for nearly all pubs during the most important trading month of the year,” he said.
“This puts hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk and places the future of British pubs in even greater doubt for the years ahead. Out of more than 2,300 pubs in England, we will have just six in tier one areas, with pubs in tier three closed and pubs in tier two unlikely to be profitable.
“Pubs have been at the centre of communities for hundreds of years and we urgently need additional support to help the industry through the winter to the spring when the effects of better weather and a vaccine can hopefully begin to show. We are ready to open and trade and have invested millions of pounds in safety measures but large numbers of pubs are simply not financially viable under the tier two and three restrictions.”