The release this week from Government of the Working Safely during Coronavirus guidance has brought with it more questions about why our pubs are shouldering the burden above all other sectors. I am personally attending regular meetings with Government officials and ministers every single week, putting forward your case around why your fragile, cash-starved businesses need workable solutions to allow you to reopen and trade fully as soon as possible.
When the Prime Minister announced the roadmap to reopening, you began planning your businesses against the expectations of that commitment. Investing heavily in your sites to ensure they are ready for outdoor reopening where you have the space, preparing and training your teams to welcome customers back safely, only to be told that there are even more regulations being put in place that will severely affect your chances of trading profitably, if at all.
Vaccine Passport and Covid Certification
Last week, we heard the Prime Minister mention the possibility of Covid certification for businesses, but once more, the suggestion is that the onus will be on our Covid-secure venues to enforce regulations in this area. We are strongly opposed to this plan if it forms any part of a requirement for people to visit your pubs, not least because the majority of staff working in hospitality venues will not have been vaccinated themselves for many months to come.
Last summer, we proved that we could run safe spaces for people to come together, backed by the data from Public Health England that showed no discernible rise in infection rates resulting from the 60 million visits a week to our Covid-secure venues.
We are asking Government what problem they are trying to solve by potentially excluding those members of society who are unable, or unwilling to have the vaccine as a personal choice. Also, the Government's own roadmap is clearly based upon delivering against 4 key health measures. If these are delivered, which we expect, based on the great progress made so far, it will allow us to trade free of restrictions from the 21st June as the Public Health risks from Covid-19 will have been fundamentally reduced.
We formally submitted our position on Vaccine Passports to Government when they called for evidence last week, leaving them in no doubt that our beleaguered industry needs to be allowed to trade as fully and freely as possible in line with the roadmap. We are holding the Prime Minister to account on delivering against that roadmap and will strongly resist any further unnecessary, unfair & unworkable restrictions being placed on our sector.
Test & Trace
When we reopened our venues last summer, we did so with robust data collection of all customer details, supporting Government when the NHS Test & Trace app was still being developed. For 3 months, we were the only sector collating this information to support the programme, and since then, no other customer facing settings have been expected to collect customer information in this way.
Now we are being asked not only to continue as the only sector doing this, we are also being told that we have to ensure people are either scanning into venues using the NHS app, or providing us with every individual customer's details.
Guidance also states that we must refuse entry to anyone not willing to take either of those steps, whilst the public is free to spend hours in shopping centres, supermarkets and other non-essential retail spaces, without having to log in or provide their details.
Whilst we understand the value of being able to quickly trace and stamp out any infection hot spots, we strongly believe that seated guests in a pub provide a much smaller risk than those freely walking around shops and touching multiple items across many locations.
Payment at table
Last year, the guidance for taking payment was clear. You must take payment from customers at their table wherever possible. This latest guidance states that you must take payment at the table, which for many of you will be virtually impossible, particularly in the first phase of reopening, when your customers will be outside.
Many of you will not have mobile payment facilities, and even those that do, know the reach of your WiFi in many cases does not extend into your beer gardens and outside spaces. Once again, the playing field between the hospitality and retail sectors is not level, and our fantastic, unique and in many cases, historical venues are being discriminated against, despite being the most heavily regulated and professionally managed venues.
We have warned Government officials in every department of the unworkable position that this leaves many of you in, and demanded that the guidance be kept in line with last year to enable venues of all shape and size to operate safely, by taking payment at the table wherever possible, but allowing payment at a static till inside the venue, where this is not feasible.
Cask Ale and our nation's unique heritage
The insight that you have provided to us by your continued engagement with our member surveys and frank conversations with your BII Team, has been and continues to provide us with a critical asset when talking to all areas of Government about the realities for your businesses. Our most recent member survey, asked your opinions on reopening and your offer at the bar.
We are currently collating the results from this survey, however we have taken the opportunity to share a number of key headline results specifically around the importance of Cask Beer in your venues.
Over 76% of you say that Cask Ale and beer was very or extremely important to the offering on your bar, but that 43% of you will be reopening with less choice in this area for your customers, as you carefully manage your stock and fresh produce levels.
This highlights the fragility of not only our pubs, but also the brewing industry that provides us with a huge part of the unique heritage of our nations' pubs. We have submitted evidence to the Future of Cask Beer enquiry, facilitated by the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, to further call on Government for support for our industry and the supply chain businesses that you rely on.
Whilst much of the focus over the last few weeks has been on regulations for England, our members in the devolved nations are facing even more and differing restrictions, with financial support in Wales in particular being of huge concern. We will continue to provide specific guidance for our members across the devolved nations.
We continue to work in collaboration with the other industry trade bodies across all areas, to ensure that all Governments are aware of the support that is necessary and deserved for all of our pubs and the wider hospitality industry. This support, along with the need for our vibrant and viable sector to open free of any restrictions as soon as is possible, is needed to ensure their survival at this critical time for their businesses.
Be in no doubt, I am representing you, our members directly to Government at this critical time, fighting for you to be able to begin the long awaited recovery of your businesses.
We are today writing to the Prime Minister, alongside other industry trade bodies aligned with a single voice, to ensure that the goalposts are not moved on his committed roadmap to reopening.
We will continue to do everything we can to support you at this critical time.