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Catch up with the latest developments involving BII licensee support, taking member statistics to the heart of Government, and interviews with CEO Steven Alton.

Hospitality & Pub Sector’s ability to be at the heart of the recovery in jeopardy

Leading hospitality trade bodies, British Institute of Innkeeping, British Beer & Pub Association and UK Hospitality have written to the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to highlight the critical business impact of uncertainty surrounding the move to Step 4 of the Covid roadmap.

The letter outlines how that uncertainty is exacerbating workforce challenges, with workers unconfident that the hospitality and pub sector are a stable sector for careers. It also conveys the significant additional staffing costs incurred due to current restrictions such as table ordering and additional test and trace requirements.

Confirming that the sector remains passionate about creating accessible and skilled jobs across the UK’s communities, they explain that the sector’s ability to do this is now in jeopardy.  

Key points from the letter include:

  • One in four of our businesses, 26,500 venues, remain closed due to legal restrictions.  Those venues that are trading are doing so with significantly reduced capacity and are delivering revenues at 63% of normal pre-Covid levels. 
  • Each further month of trading at this reduced capacity reduces revenues by a further £3bn for the sector critically undermining the sustainability of our businesses and putting jobs at risk.  
  • The sector has seen closures of 12,000 hospitality businesses over the last year, 1 in 10 of restaurants and 1 in 5 of town centre casual dining and late night bars.

A spokesperson for the trade associations said:

“The Government is assessing potential risks around removing all restrictions on the 21st June and we urge them to follow their own roadmap, if the data supports it, and to allow the hospitality and pub sector to open free of restrictions.  

“We urge them to fully consider the significant risk that a delay would result in business failures and job losses in every community across the UK. Our members’ businesses are extremely fragile and only the dropping of restrictions and the extension of the business rates holiday in England until April 2022, will enable them to snap back at the heart of the economic recovery.”

The letter to Rt. Hon Rishi Sunak MP and Rt. Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP can be found here.

New Survey Launch: Trading, Support & Full Reopening

Closing on Monday 7th June 2021, our latest survey is set to bring the voice of BII members and the wider community of licensees straight to the heart of Government. We aim to bring the survey report straight to key decision makers ahead of the Step 4 Roadmap briefing. 

Click here to lend your voice to our survey

For those of you who have been able to open your pubs over the last few sunny days many have been given a much needed boost after a subdued start to May indoor trading. We fully recognise that even with improved trading that many of you are still struggling to operate profitability with both reduced capacity and significant additional staffing costs.

We now look ahead to step 4 of the Government roadmap on the 21st June and the potential lifting of all trading restrictions. We understand that for many of you this marks the first step of a long road to recovery. Throughout the pandemic we have taken your voice, our members, to those at the heart of Government. Weekly meetings with Ministers and officials have provided an opportunity to share the realities and priorities of your businesses to ask for the support that you need.

We are once again asking for your support with a flash survey to ensure we have the current status of trading, the reality of your financial position, the operational challenges that you are facing and the impact of operating with ongoing restrictions. We will use this insight to ensure that all involved with the decision making process ahead are in no doubt of what is needed to safeguard your pub businesses to be at the heart of our economic recovery.

We appreciate how busy you are right now so the survey has been designed to be completed in under 5 minutes.

The survey will be open until 10am on Monday the 7th of June, thank you for your support in completing it.

All of Your BII Team will continue to do all we can to support you and your businesses.

Steven Alton



APPBG Releases "The Future of Cask Beer" Report

MPs say urgent help is needed to save UK breweries and pubs. The report highlights the devastating impact of the pandemic on pubs and the wider hospitality sector, as well as sales of draught beer.

A new report, issued by the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group (APPBG) of MPs, has called on the Government to deliver urgent support to save pubs and breweries. The report is released during a review of alcohol duty at HM Treasury which is expected to be completed during the summer.

The report, Caskenomics: Cask beer’s COVID crisis and the impact on people pubs and places, follows an Inquiry carried out by the APPBG and produced with evidnce from a cross section of more than 30 sector leaders. It notes that the pandemic has already brought about the closure of more than 2,000 pubs and breweries in the UK and has saddled both brewers and pub owners with enormous debts. Without intervention, the report warns, even more community pubs will soon be lost for good.

Commenting on the report, chair of the APPBG, Mike Wood MP, said:

“Brexit provides an opportunity for the Chancellor to charge lower duty rates on draught beers – it’s an opportunity we would urge him to consider! For instance, halving the duty on draught beer – a cut of 22p on an average strength pint – would be a £600 million shot in the arm to save our pubs and breweries.”

BII CEO Steven Alton added:

"The APPBG’s inquiry on the Future of Cask Beer clearly highlights how our nations’ pubs, and their unique attribute of cask beer, are in need of targeted support to protect their futures. Pubs and brewers in all communities need the certainty of trading fully and free of restrictions alongside economic support with the removal of business rates for the full year, an extension of the VAT reduction until April 2022 and an immediate targeted reduction in duty for draught beer in pubs.

"Kelly McCarthy, a BII Trustee, License of the Year Award (LOYA) winner and long standing member of the BII clearly explains why Government support is needed now."

(The full video is available at the end of this article)

Although pubs have now reopened, the report stresses that it is essential for the sector that the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown continues as planned but that even then, sales will not be get back to pre-pandemic levels until the end of 2022 at the earliest.

A key recommendation of the report is for the Government to reduce the tax burden on brewers and pubs through lower duty, VAT or business rates. For instance, the Treasury is urged to consider the merits of lowering duty on draught beers specifically, which are exclusively available in licensed premises and so have been uniquely hit by pubs enforced closure.

The plight of cask beer (or “real ale”) has been specifically highlighted in the report. Prior to the pandemic, the sector contributed 72,500 jobs to the UK economy. Due to its short shelf life, the lockdowns caused 87 million pints of beer, worth more than £300 million, to be poured away.

The enforced closure of hospitality during the pandemic created a sharp rise in duty receipts from wine and spirits bought from supermarkets and off-licences, and a significant decline in receipts from beer. Within the beer sector, cask ale was the hardest hit. Many brewers continued to brew and sell beer for shop-sale as filtered, kegged or bottled beer, keeping the overall sales decline to 18 per cent. For most cask ale producers, this was not possible, and sales fell by 72 per cent to the end of February 2021.

Mike Wood continued:

“The quintessential British pub has never been more vital to our communities than it is today, as we emerge from the dark isolation of the past 14 months. Unfortunately, in order to survive and thrive, the industry needs government to go even further in its support, extending and building on some of the measures introduced after March 2020.

“Supermarkets have flourished over the past year, with sales of wine and spirits soaring. But now we need to make sure that pubs and breweries come out of this fighting too.”

Without Government intervention, the report warns, declining cask ale production would have significant fallout for a number of reasons:

  • Many pubs are reliant on cask ales to draw in wider custom and tourism to the locality with wider benefits for local employment
  • Cask ales are typically relatively low alcohol beers, one of lowest alcohol choices on the bar
  • British hop farmers could go out of business
  • All cask ales are sold in returnable containers making it the greenest way to enjoy a beer.

In order to prevent the decline of pubs and the brewing industry, the APPBG report has made five specific recommendations:

  • Government to reduce the overall burden on brewers and pubs through lower overall duty, VAT and business rates and to urgently consider the specific merits of a lower rate of duty for on-sales of draught beers to encourage footfall back into pubs
  • Government must stick to the roadmap for reopening and run a public information campaign to restore consumer confidence that pubs are safe
  • Government to consider targeted COVID debt-forgiveness and measures to ameliorate the impact of crown debt
  • Industry to convene a working group to capitalise on the possibilities for cask beers as an environmentally friendly, locally focussed, premium and uniquely British product
  • Government to incentivise and/or support investment in the UK’s hop sector, to tide it over a period of unprecedented uncertainty.

The pub sector, the report says, could provide the answer to a number of problems caused by the pandemic like rising unemployment, especially among young people, and social isolation.

Kelly McCarthy, landlady of the Ye Old Sun Inn, Tadcaster and chair of the Yorkshire section of the British Institute of Innkeeping, said:

“In March 2020, it felt like our world had fallen apart. Now, the pubs need a cut in duty, to bring them back into the spotlight; to do that, we need the support of the government.

“It’s essential that the government presses ahead with the roadmap out of lockdown and plans for 21 June. How can businesses plan without that certainty?”

Andy Slee chair of Black Sheep Brewery said:

“Britain’s brewers and community pubs have had an especially tough time in lockdown.

“The Government investment in lower draught beer duty identified by MPs in this report is critical to ensuring that these British institutions can continue to invest in their futures, help protect jobs and allow these community assets to thrive for the good of us all.”

Click here to read the report

Watch the interview with BII Trustee Kelly McCarthy here

Fighting for the Future of Your Pubs

As we head into the Bank Holiday weekend, another missed opportunity for you, our members, to begin the long road to recovery for your fragile businesses, I wanted to update you on how we are fighting for your right to reopen in line with the roadmap with no further unnecessary restrictions.

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.

Devolved nations

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.

Business fragility

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.
Steven Alton

Government support critical to safeguard the future of Cask Ale in our nations’ pubs

The BII has today submitted the results of a survey of their members, as part of their formal submission to the enquiry into the future of cask beer, facilitated by the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group.

The pandemic has caused an unprecedented fall in volumes of cask beer being sold, down over 60% in 2020 versus the previous year. The widespread impact on the nations’ brewers has put many of these unique suppliers to the pub sector at risk of business failure.

Over 76% of respondents to the BII’s recent survey, said that Cask Ale was very or extremely important to the offering on their bar, but 43% have also said that they will reopen with less pumps than they had previous to the pandemic. This change to their offer is caused by uncertainty around the number of customers they will be welcoming back to their venues whilst restrictions remain in place, as well as careful stock management and a nervousness around the roadmap dates being adhered to.

For many, investing in a fresh product with a short shelf life is a risk for their cash starved businesses that they must carefully consider, despite the importance of a good range of cask ale on offer for their customers.

Critical support of our pubs is required through a long term extension of the VAT cut to 5% which should include alcoholic beverages and not just food and soft drinks.  We also recognise the need for a fundamental reform of beer duty, which is essentially an unfair tax on pubs and the wider brewery sector. However, a critical early step ahead of that full reform, would be to place a lower differential rate of duty on draft beer in pubs and bars, to support independent brewers at a time critical to their businesses, and allow pubs to continue offering a full range of cask ales on the bar.

Steven Alton, CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping commented:

 “Cask ale is a unique attribute to UK pubs and a key point of difference to many BII members, who run professional independent, drink-led venues in our local towns, high streets and communities.  Our pubs need ongoing support to recover their businesses and support fantastic local brewers that make our pubs so special.”

The BII continues to support members through this critical reopening and long road to recovery of their pubs, as well as the key supply chain businesses that help make the Great British pub part of our nation’s heritage.

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