British Beer and Pub Association has said prolonged social distancing will bring “huge difficulties” for the pub sector, responding to CMO Chris Whitty’s comments that social distancing will be needed until at least the end of 2020.
Whitty said there is an “incredibly small” chance of a vaccine for coronavirus being ready at any point during 2020. He said: “We are going to have to do a lot of things for really quite a long period of time, the question is what is the best package and this is what we’re trying to work out.”
In response, Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association said: “Pubs are the original social network, so reopening them with social distancing restrictions is going to be extremely difficult. Both for staff and customers alike.
“It’s clear that the government is going to need to give pubs special consideration for a restart, as well as specific support just for them. The Job Retention Scheme must continue for pubs throughout their closure along with a ‘back to work’ scheme with the same level of support when they can re-open. Such measures will save jobs whilst the trade slowly recovers.”
She said: “Further extension of the grant support from the government for pubs, including the 10,000 pubs above the threshold for such support at present, will also be needed. Pubs will be lost if such measures are not taken, and will help the trade whilst it slowly recovers.
“We need these measures put in place now, to ensure that pubs can survive and be ready to re-open when safe to do so and then help as they slowly recover. Trade will not immediately return to the level it was before the Covid-19 crisis hit when pubs reopen. Upon reopening, trade could be down by as much as half what it was before. “
She concluded: “It will inevitably take time for consumer confidence to build. Social distancing restrictions in pubs will inevitably have a direct effect on footfall in pubs.”