Up to 970 Liverpool pubs face closure as new restrictions condemned for being 'simply wrong'

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Up to 970 pubs in Liverpool face closure BBPA three-tier system Coronavirus lockdown

Related tags Pub Restaurant Coronavirus lockdown Curfew

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has condemned the Government's decision to target pubs for closure in areas deemed 'very high' risk under its new three-tier alert system.

From tomorrow (14 October), the majority of pubs in the Liverpool City Region will be required to close as a result of the measures, with the BBPA estimating that some 970 pubs will be affected.

It follows  Prime Minister Boris Johnson's speech to the House of Commons yesterday afternoon (12 October) in which he set out the new strategy for dealing with local outbreaks of Coronavirus in England that divides the country into three tiers of escalating severity​ – ‘medium’, ‘high’, and ‘very high’.

In areas labelled ‘very high’ risk, pubs and bars will be ordered to close and social mixing between households will be banned indoors and outdoors.

However, restaurants and any pubs or bars that are able to 'operate as if they were a restaurant' and serve 'substantial' meals will be allowed to remain open under the highest tier.

Initially, only the Liverpool City Region will face the toughest level of restrictions as a result of the rising number of Coronavirus cases in the area.

Responding to the announcement, the BBPA says that measures which single out pubs and bars are wrong and has called for an evidence-based, proportionate response to the virus.

The trade body cites Public Health England figures released last Friday (9 October), which show that pubs and hospitality venues represented just 3% of total transmissions across the country during week 41 of the pandemic.

It says that based on this evidence, pubs and bars should not be singled out for closure, especially as they are well regulated; adhere to all safety measures including table service only and the rule of six; and are fully participating in NHS Test and Trace.

“Singling out pubs for closure and further restrictions is simply the wrong decision and grossly unfair," says Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA.

“It’s why we are calling for a proportionate response to the virus based on tangible transmission evidence.

“Where is the merit in closing pubs to combat the virus based on that information? Especially when they are providing a safe and regulated place for people to meet at.

“Local lockdowns that close pubs will devastate our sector and the communities it serves. And most pubs will struggle to sustain viable business under tier two with their trade being so heavily impacted. 

"Thousands of local pubs and jobs will be lost for good."

According to the trade association, the additional restrictions outlined in both the 'very high' and 'high' category of lockdowns will hit pubs – and the communities they serve – hard. 

Many pubs were already struggling for survival with low consumer confidence, the 10pm curfew, rule of six and limited operating space due to social distancing.

Even if a pub is not forced to close, the additional restriction of households not being allowed to mix inside will reduce consumer confidence and restrict trade further.

As such, the BBPA also says a stronger financial package of support than that announced by the Chancellor last week​ will be needed.

Areas already facing local restrictions such as Greater Manchester and the North East will be in the ‘high’ tier, with the measures similar to what they currently are nationally, but restrictions placed on multiple households meeting in indoor settings.

The rest of the country, including London, will be placed in the lowest or ‘medium’ tier, which will follow current national measures such as the rule of six and 10pm curfew.

In areas where businesses are forced to close, the Government will cover two-thirds of employee wages as part of an expansion of the Job Support Scheme (JSS).

Those businesses will also able to access a cash grant of up to £3,000 a month, depending on their rateable value.

“It remains the case that even before these new local lockdown restrictions, pubs were already struggling for survival with low consumer confidence, the 10pm curfew, rule of six and limited operating space due to social distancing," continues McClarkin.

"For those pubs facing the middle tier of restrictions, they will come under even more pressure as customers from two different households will not be able to meet indoors in them.

“If the Government is really going to go ahead and force much of our sector to close, then a far stronger financial package of support is going to be needed than what the Chancellor already announced.

"The cash grants for businesses forced to close will not cover high fixed costs and write off costs for and are lower when compared to the grant support given during the national lockdown. 

"Likewise grants and the additional job retention support should be available to those pubs facing the middle tier of restrictions and the inevitable further decline in their revenue they face."

McClarkin's comments echo those made by UKHopsitaliy chief executive Kate Nicholls yesterday, who warned that businesses operating in areas deemed either 'medium' or 'high' risk will face severe restrictions without ‘proportionate’ support.

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