The network of 150 community-owned pubs, UK-wide, are under greater pressure than ever. Along with the wider hospitality sector they have endured nearly 12 months of restrictions or lockdowns that has threatened their long term viability.

These businesses are #MorethanaPub they play a much deeper role than simply providing a service – they can empower communities to address issues such as isolation, wellbeing, loneliness, work and training.

With the roadmap for reopening the economy to be announced later today Plunkett is calling on government to offer the following support, regardless of reopening dates to help these businesses survive.

We are asking:

  • Permit the sale of takeaway alcohol in closed containers until pubs are able to fully reopen
  • Extend the business rate relief for hospitality for the whole of 2021/22 financial year, mirroring the support in place in Scotland
  • Extend the 5% VAT rate on food and non-alcoholic drinks for the whole of 2021/2022 financial year
  • Extend the Job Retention Scheme for a further 6 months, or until such a time that pubs are able to trade without restrictions
  • Cut the tax duties paid on beer by 25%

It is clear that the government must base it action on health data and infection rates and we clearly understand this. However, community pubs, often operating with volunteers at the core of their business have invested heavily in ensuring they can create safe and Covid-secure environments. They need to be given the confidence that they will continue to be supported throughout this next phase, it must not be the case that reopening under limited circumstances is seen as the point at which support is simply switched off.

As has been widely reported, with community pubs expected to only be able to open to outdoor customers initially then we’d like to see local authorities and councils working with these local businesses to identify and use Covid-secure greenspace or town space – particularly for those businesses where no beer garden exists at all.

Whilst we hope today’s roadmap will help restore some of the community pub’s past freedoms next week’s budget will be vital for their long term survival.

Chris Cowcher, Head of Community Business, Plunkett Foundation