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.