It’s universally accepted that the hospitality sector has been hit the hardest in the Covid fall-out, not least the publicans who are on the floor. In a week where over 1,000 more pubs will close in and around the capital, beers sales likely to be 90 percent down on last December and income from machines and jukes at an unprecedented low, Coinslot takes a trip around the pub trade to see if it was all worth it.
The UK government’s chief scientific adviser has admitted that the decision to implement a curfew on pub trading hours had “no hard evidence” behind it.
In an address to the commons’ health and science committee last week, Patrick Vallance claimed instead that the curtailing of hospitality opening times was instead based on “circumstantial evidence” from other countries, which he said linked indoor dining and drinking venues to spikes in Covid rates.
“If you look at the effect of the tiers, it was only when hospitality was shut that you could see the cases coming down,” he argued.
Still, Vallance was remarkably frank about the broad “range of data” on the subject, to the extent that it was “just not possible to model…with any degree of accuracy and say a particular time will give you a particular result.”
Which is tantamount to an admission that Vallance essentially made an unscientific judgement call on the matter – one which continues to have massive ramifications for thousands of publicans and their newly unemployed former staff throughout the country.
Meanwhile, data emerges in Holland supporting pub openings
It’s bad enough that Patrick Vallance’s has come clean about the fact that the UK’s curfew policy on pubs was based on mere supposition alone. But what makes the ongoing restrictions on pub trading hours even more absurd is the fact that the latest evidence out of the Netherlands suggests that keeping hospitality venues open for as long as possible can actually improve local “r-rates,” and reduce the instances of people spreading the virus through drinking at one another’s houses. Dutch news site RTL Nieuws claims to have seen an (as-yet unreleased) paper produced by the Dutch economic ministry, which shows that the average transmission-rate per carrier of Covid rose from 0.82 in October to 1.04 in November – after new measures shuttering most bars and restaurants were put into effect. A translation of the report suggests that the reopening of hospitality venues for Christmas would actually be beneficial to wider public health.
“Reopening the controlled environment of the eateries and restaurants will significantly limit unsafe home visits,” it reads, going on to claim that “it is conceivable the r-value will decrease.”
Pub restrictions “madness,” claims BBPA’s McClarkin
New data from the BBPA suggests that pub trade is down 84 per cent on last year, as publicans do their best to survive within the draconian structure laid down for pubs in the government’s latest tier system.
Just over 700 pubs (equating to one in 50 nationwide) was able to offer indoor table service to patrons during the first weekend of post-lockdown trading, with the majority of pubs (60 per cent) being unable or unwilling to open in any capacity whatsoever.
Armed with these devastating numbers, BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin told the Morning Advertiser that the tier system was now effectively “killing” the British pub industry.
“Either the government reduces these extreme restrictions, or they recognise the damage they are doing and provide pubs with proper levels of grants they need,” she remarked. “It truly is madness when you consider cinemas, theatres and sport venues can still open and sell alcohol.”
Marston’s hit by £400m loss
Pub operator Marston’s has reported a pre-tax loss for the year to 3 October of £397.1m, despite Q4 like-for-like sales achieving 90 percent of 2019 levels.
Following the 15 week closure of its 1,400- venue estate, the company was hit with a non-cash impairment charge of £305.7m for goodwill and property, plant and equipment.
“I would like to thank the entire team at Marston’s for their loyalty, dedication and hard work in such trying circumstances,” said CEO Ralph Findlay.
“Whilst short-term uncertainty remains, we have taken swift action to future-proof the business to withstand the challenges presented by the pandemic.”
Thousands of pubs and people’s jobs at risk
The BBPA has warned that Tier Three could endanger a further 8,000 jobs across the 1,250 pubs previously open in London under Tier Two.
The latest measures bring the number of sector jobs currently at risk in the capital up to 56,000.
“Moving into tier three is another nail in the coffin for London’s pubs,” said BBPA CEO Emma McClarkin. “It could completely destroy many pubs in London and parts of Hertfordshire and Essex.”