'SAVE OUR PUBS' PLEA: Why cancelling rent could protect small pubs

PUBLICANS are urging bosses to “save pubs and cancel rents” in a bid to stop taverns from going out of business.

CAMRA and its Bradford pub owners have united for the campaign after previous calls to “dramatically” reduce rents for pubs who might not be able to reopen. It is now expanding its call by urging pub company bosses to cancel rent with the current Covid-19 restrictions expected to stay in place for quite some time.

The Government has indicated that restrictions for the hospitality trade, including pubs, will start to be lifted from July 4 with social distancing in place. But tavern owners warn this will mean they will only be able to operate at 30 per cent capacity or less – a make or break situation for pubs already financially tied.

In May, many publicans shared their fears that it will be “practically impossible” to maintain social distancing while Keith Wildman, who owns the Record Cafe in North Parade, commented on how he would need 12 square metres per person in his venue. The British Beer and Pub Association has estimated that 40% of pubs may not survive beyond September.

Peter Down, deputy Chairman of CAMRA’s Bradford Branch, said “To say that the COVID-19 restrictions have had an impact on the hospitality and entertainments trades would be a huge understatement.

“In particular, the Great British Institution, the pub, has been massively affected. Since the order to close was given by the Government on Friday 20 March 2020, pubs have not been able to open and trade as they would normally. Whilst pubs are closed, the majority are not able to generate any income.

“Many have been missing their local pub over the last few months.

“They are social hubs and greatly help the well-being of people. The current pub closures, whilst understandable given the current COVID-19 situation, has emphasised the key role pubs play in people’s lives and their importance to the communities they serve.The risk of many of these permanently closing as a result of the pressures currently being placed on them, including in terms of ongoing rent demands, should be avoided.”

190,000 members of CAMRA have backed the plea. They feel cancelled or reduced rents should be offered until pubs can re-open without any restrictions on drinkers.

Nik Antona, CAMRA’s national chairman, said: “Lockdown has made people realise just how much they value their local pubs. It is essential they are given the help they need to survive, not just the lockdown, but also the social distancing measures when they re-open. This is vital if these pubs are to make it through the next few months when social distancing measures are in place. Pubs will be operating at reduced turnover so won’t be able to cope with rent arrears and other debts accruing if they are being charged full rent.”