The Liberal Democrats are at the forefront of a cross party call to protect pubs in the face of the “unique combination of challenges” created by the Covid-19 crisis.
Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper, alongside MPs from the Tory, Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green parties, are calling for Ministers to ensure pubs - a “cornerstone of British culture” - are in a position to reopen once social distancing measures are eased. The group have written to the Chancellor to demand bespoke support for the industry including calls to:
- Scrap the £51,000 Rateable Value cap for pubs, allowing pubs to access the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.
- Stop pubco landlords from charging rent to their tenants through the crisis.
- Extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for the hospitality sector for the duration of social distancing measures and adopt a tailored approach to taper down the scheme in line with the ability of pubs to re-open on a viable basis.
Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans, said:
“Pubs are an iconic part of our social and economic fabric. They are the hub of many communities and play a key role in the wider economy, employing nearly half a million people directly and supporting so many other jobs - not least in brewing and entertainment.
“Right now, many pubs are saddled with enormous rents, payable despite the fact that their doors are closed. On top of this, many are unable to access Government grants because they’re based on the broken business rates system. They are on a financial precipice.
“The Chancellor must take radical action to prevent beloved pubs from permanently closing their doors. He must scrap the unfair rates cap that prevents so many pubs from accessing vital funds, and prevent pubco landlords from charging exorbitant rates to their tenants whilst they are unable to open their premises.
“Longer term, we are calling for wholesale reform of the broken business rates system, which has been exposed as completely unfit for purpose.
“Ministers must act urgently to support UK pubs through the COVID crisis, or risk leaving a gaping hole in communities across the UK and the loss of a wonderful part of our heritage.”
Tom Stainer, Chief Executive at CAMRA said:
“We welcome this letter, which highlights vital issues facing pubs during the Covid-19 lockdown. It has been estimated that up 19,000 pubs are now at risk of permanent closure as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, which also means that jobs are on the line, and consumers stand to lose out on the social and wellbeing benefits of pub going.
“Up to 20% of pubs may not be eligible for grant support due to their high rateable value – but that doesn’t mean they are better able than smaller pubs to weather this storm, so it’s imperative that the grant scheme is extended to offer them support.
“CAMRA has also called for pub companies to cancel rent for tenants and is seeking assurances that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be available to pubs and brewers until the end of social distancing measures. We’re delighted to see MPs doing the same and applaud their efforts – hopefully, the Government will listen."