Matthew Steeples joins those saying: “I wish I was in the pub” and lauds the ‘Guardian’ for suggesting: “Pubs are part of Britain’s fabric. Why are they not being properly helped?”
In the 2000s, greedy property developers snapped up pub sites to redevelop as housing. Breweries realised their prime location real estate assets to be cash-in-able and then, with supermarkets selling alcohol dirt cheap and a stricter enforcement of drink driving legislation, the population decided to drink more at home.
The onset of coronavirus last year only further added to the woes of the sector and in November 2020 it was revealed that “in spite of research finding that 82% of pubgoers believed “that hospitality venues offered a Covid-secure environment,” 7 out of 10 pubs will never reopen post un-lockdown.
In a further twist, Pete Brown, chair of the British Guild of Beer Writers, penned an opinion piece on the subject for the Guardian this morning. In it, he began by whimsically musing: “I wish I was in the pub. I wish I was writing this at a wonky table, imprinting it with sticky rings each time I take a sip of my pint, a muddy dog curled at my feet.”
Moving on, he added of this locked up sector:
“The worry is that, the longer the pandemic drags on, the more likely this particular loss may be permanent.”
“Christmas, which can account for a quarter of annual profits, didn’t happen. May is now the likely reopening date for any pubs that survive until then. The government’s promised grant of £1,000 for every pub doesn’t go far when a closed pub costs its owners an average £800 a week.”
“Lack of help is hard enough to deal with. Being unfairly scapegoated for the spread of Covid is even worse.”
“Back in March, in the first lockdown, [hospitality sector venues] were forced to close before any other businesses. When they reopened in July, many commentators across the media predicted a wave of drunks creating nationwide super-spreader events. This never materialised.”
“And yet, pubs were subjected to stricter controls than any other business. At the same time as we were being told that it was our national duty to shop at chains such as Pret a Manger and Costa, [hospitality sector venues] required you to sign in or register with the test-and-trace app before you could enter. Social distancing and mask-wearing were enforced far more rigorously in many pubs than in shops or on public transport.”
“With the extra costs and diminished income from being limited to table service and 10pm curfews, by the time pubs were finally closed again in November, a third had already shut their doors because they couldn’t operate profitably.”
“Pubs proved an easy target then. In a nation that’s hung-up about its work ethic, time spent in the pub is seen as not worthwhile, even by many who frequent them. Many accept restrictions more easily on things we feel we probably shouldn’t be doing anyway.”
In further depressing news elsewhere for the hospitality sector in general yesterday, Big Hospitality claimed that 79% of operators believed they “will not be able to survive a lockdown until May without further government support. Their polling also revealed that “just 3% of operators are ‘very confident’ in the future of their businesses.”
Whilst Pete Brown concluded by summing up pubs as “part of Britain’s fabric,” the third wife of Ernest Hemmingway and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn’s analysis of their necessary role in society is definitely applicable now. “In the end, in England, when you want to find out how people are feeling, you always go to the pubs,” she once remarked. This government should remember that and it should do more to help the hospitality sector now before we lose the best of it for good.
Follow Matthew Steeples on Twitter at @M_Steeples.