The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has warned that the new 10pm curfew for pubs will “devastate” the sector unless the Government provides a comprehensive financial support package.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the curfew yesterday as part of a set of new restrictions aimed at curbing the recent surge in coronavirus cases.
He apologised to businesses “just getting back on their feet”, but said “we must stop the virus being transmitted in bars and restaurants”.
This move represents an abrupt turnaround from the Government, who only last month were encouraging people to go out to restaurants and pubs as much as possible as part of the “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme.
The Prime Minister said the cabinet had seen evidence that the virus has been spreading more virulently in pubs and restaurants after 10pm, when more alcohol has been consumed and people start to ignore social distancing guidelines.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Prime Minister’s chief scientific adviser, said that without stricter restrictions, England could face “around 50,000 new cases every day by mid-October”.
But Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pubs Association, has warned that removing key trading hours could leave many pubs facing bankruptcy.
“Make no mistake, a 10pm curfew will devastate our sector during an already challenging environment for pubs. Pubs were struggling to break even before today and these latest restrictions will push some to breaking point. Removing a key trading hour on top of fragile consumer confidence and the reduced capacity pubs already face will put thousands more pubs and jobs at risk,” she said.
“During the current circumstances every hour of trading it crucial to the survival of pubs – for many this curfew will render their businesses unviable.”
McClarkin emphasized that pubs across the country have “adapted well to the ‘new normal’ over the past few months,” and described the curfew as “heart-breaking” for pubs in areas where infection rates remain under control.
She expressed her doubt that the new “blanket measure” will make much difference, saying “there seems to be little available evidence that pubs, with their strict adherence to Government guidelines, are unsafe.”
Addressing the urgent need for extensive financial support for pubs in the wake of the announcement, McClarkin said:
“The Government now needs to act fast in putting together a comprehensive support package to ensure that thousands of pubs don’t close their doors for good because of this curfew. We need an immediate sector specific furlough scheme to save the hundreds of thousands of jobs that pubs support, extended VAT cuts and business rates holiday and a substantial cut to the rate of beer duty [announced] in the Autumn Budget.
“Only a comprehensive support package like this will save thousands of pubs and many more pub jobs.”