Pubs need support not a handout

The great British pub has been the cornerstone of our community since medieval days – the social glue that connects everything together. 

Jon Dale
By Jon Dale, Strategic Communications Consultant at Punch Pubs & Co, Punch Pubs

03 October 2021

What makes our local a local is not just the opportunity to eat and drink, meet friends and celebrate a special occasion, watch sport, take part in open mic nights and charity quizzes, or even embark on that nervy first date, it’s also about identity, the fact that the aroma, framed photographs, memorabilia and uneven floor convey stories of the village and its dedicated residents.

Our national treasure also remains an economic hub with Pub is the Hub, a not-for-profit organisation that I have worked closely with over recent years, continuing to offer expert advice and support to communities that are looking to relocate, reopen or introduce vital services and activities in their local pub such as post offices, shops, libraries, cafes and even cinemas.

This, in turn, provides fantastic job prospects so anyone with the desire and commitment to succeed has that opportunity to progress. My previous employer, Stonegate Group’s award-winning Albert’s Theory of Progression (ATOP) career development programme underpins that “bar to boardroom” ethos.

Then, and maybe most importantly, is the role pubs can play in combating loneliness and social isolation. The “Open Arms” report, published earlier this year and undertaken by Dr Thomas Thurnell-Read from Loughborough University in partnership with the Campaign to End Loneliness, Heineken and Pub is the Hub, only helps reinforce this point.  64% of people feel the pub is one of the main places to socialise in their local area and 86% agree that when a pub closes, the local community suffers.

The pub is more than just a place to have a pint, a glass of wine and meal, it is the core of the community and should never be seen as the problem but rather part of the solution. Even when pubs were mandated to close last year, publicans refused to be defeated and formulated plans that allowed them to continue serving their local communities. From converting their pubs into shops, to raising money for local charities and even feeding the NHS and school children in the absence of free school meals – no challenge was ever too great.

Pubs matter – it is, therefore, incomprehensible the pub was left in the lurch by government last year, and into this year, with totally inadequate support and absurd and unjustifiable restrictions such as the substantial meal and 10pm curfew.

The doors are slamming shut on our good times. It has been estimated that, catastrophically, 6,000 licensed premises permanently closed in 2020 due to the pandemic (Source: CGA/AlixPartners) – and I fear things could actually get much worse before they get better. 

That is why the chancellor needs to step up again in the Budget later this month with something that will allow our pubs, other hospitality venues and brewers to thrive, not just survive, and be there for the people that need them most.  The industry doesn’t want handouts, just a helping hand. Keep the VAT relief (at 5%) and include alcohol, keep the business rates relief as well as a beer duty cut and give these businesses support that will drive that economic recovery. 

Pubs are the living rooms and hearts of our communities and publicans have been grateful get back to what they do best: welcoming and looking after people. And it has been pleasing to see that the pent-up consumer demand that materialised once pubs reopened – remember those scenes of customers supporting their local pub despite the big chill that coincided with outdoor reopening in April!

Since outdoor and then indoor reopening there have been many other challenges for pubs: staff shortages, food supply issues and now the fuel crisis. Pubs need to remain agile to manage labour costs and adhere to guidelines but, whether government likes it or not, our national treasure has and will continue to play an instrumental part in all of our lives. 

That’s why it’s incumbent on all of us that own, operate and love pubs to make as much noise as possible and let MPs know the strength of industry feeling as to why pubs must be further supported in this month’s Budget.

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