Pubs face losing out on billions of pounds in income over the Christmas period and many may close as a result of coronavirus restrictions, Labour has claimed.
Rajeev Syal www.theguardian.com
The party has called on the government to use business rates relief returned by supermarkets to provide extra support for the industry.
Pubs and bars made £3.8bn in sales in November and December last year, but will have lost out on the bulk of that income this year due to the restrictions.
Britain’s 47,200 pubs would usually have one of their most lucrative weeks of the year over Christmas, but 85% are now closed or unable to trade viably because they are outside tier 1, according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).
On Christmas Day, pubs would usually expect to sell more than 1m dinners but are now forecasting just 200,000, while the number of pints they pull is predicted to decrease from 10m to 630,000.
Sites in tiers 3 and 4 can only operate as takeaways, and in tier 2 alcohol can only be served with food, an option not available in thousands of “wet-led” bars.
From Boxing Day, when more areas enter tier 4, 93% of pubs in England will have been forced to shut, a Labour analysis claims.
The party said the majority of pubs hit by restrictions were receiving less government support than in the March lockdown.
Lucy Powell MP, shadow minister for business and consumers, said: “Pubs are a vital part of Britain’s high streets. They bring people together and help communities thrive.
“They’ve had the toughest of years as a result of the pandemic and, if the government doesn’t step up and put a proper support plan in place to secure their future, it will be last orders for many.
“Boris Johnson is failing our pubs. His glass half-empty approach is a real threat to their future.”
The outlook became even more grim after millions more people were told late on Wednesday they would be plunged into tier 4 from Boxing Day.
Large retailers have paid back about £2bn in business rates relief and Labour has called for the money to support the hospitality industry and high street businesses.
A government spokesperson said: “We understand the pressure pubs and other businesses are under, however the current restrictions are essential so we can control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.
“Businesses can access our unprecedented support package worth £280bn , including the extended furlough scheme, business rates holidays, various loan schemes and VAT deferral in addition to grants of £3,000 a month for businesses required to close.”