The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), the leading trade association representing Britain’s brewers and pubs, has welcomed some aspects of the new furlough scheme announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, including the additional flexibility and gradual tapering from August.
However, the trade association has warned that for the tapered support to work, ALL pubs need to be open and operating at a sustainable level by the time the tapering kicks in.
It has therefore reiterated that the Government must review the current two metre social distancing guidance and consider the advice and guidance of the World Health Organisation from July, which suggests using one metre is safe for social distancing.
The BBPA says this would significantly increase the number of the UK’s 47,000 pubs that could safely re-open from one-third to three-quarters in July and at levels that would be more operationally viable – enabling more pub staff to return to work as the furlough scheme tapers off and reducing the risk of job losses.
The trade association has also welcomed that the Chancellor has brought forward flexibility for furloughing from August to July. However, the detail remains to be seen on how it will work in practice. If pubs are to reopen on 4 July, then being able to bring flexible furlough further forward to help the process of getting pubs ready to open would be greatly welcomed.
BBPA has also highlighted that the announcement did not include any recognition of the unique pressures that the pub and hospitality sectors face having been closed the longest. In order to secure pubs and jobs for the long term, it has re-iterated that more support is needed as businesses try to get back on their feet.
It is calling on the Government to recognise that those pubs that are not able to open or operate at a viable level under the social distancing restrictions will simply not be able to cover any additional staff costs. If these costs are not continued to be covered by Government there is a real risk of significant job losses and those pubs never reopening.
BBPA's Chief Executive Emma McClarkin said, “Whilst we welcome the tapered furlough support and increased flexibility announced today, all pubs have to be open and operating viably by July for this scheme to work. Pubs have been closed since March with no income coming in. Expecting them to contribute to furlough costs if they are closed or operationally unviable is simply not feasible.
“We continue to work closely with Government to ensure all UK pubs can open as soon as possible. Preventing pubs from re-opening as the furlough support reduces means that those pubs will have no income to cover the additional staff costs - risking job losses and pubs staying closed for good.
“Under the current two metre social distancing rules, two-thirds of our pubs will remain closed. To open pubs up safely as soon as possible, it is imperative the Government explores the WHO’s suggested one metre rule for social distancing and allows pubs to re-open under those safe conditions in July. This will allow three quarters of our pubs to re-open and more staff to return to work – ensuring the tapered furlough scheme protects pub jobs as they re-open.
“We also call on the Government to recognise that up to a quarter of our pubs may not be able to open even with a one metre rule in place, in which case they will need the furlough scheme to continue at the current 80% until they can reopen.”