Boris Johnson’s £1,000 ‘wet pubs’ grant slammed as ‘small beer’ by Keir Starmer

Sophia Sleigh and April Roach
·3 min read
<p>Boris Johnson has announced £1,000 for each pub forced to remain closed</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has announced £1,000 for each pub forced to remain closed

(AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has announced that all “wet pubs” which do not serve food will receive £1,000 to “recognise how hard they have been hit” by Covid controls.

Announcing the move to MPs at the start of a debate on the new tiered system due to come into effect after lockdown, the Prime Minister said: “Today we’re going further, with a one-off payment of £1,000 in December to wet pubs – that’s pubs that do not serve food.

“Recognising how hard they’ve been hit by this virus in what is typically their busiest month.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer slammed the grant as the “definition of small beer”.

He told the Commons: “Even allowing for today’s announcement on pubs which I think is the definition of small beer, many businesses are now receiving less support than they did during the first wave.

"That’s a huge strain for businesses particularly those that have been so long under restrictions.”

Under the Tier 2 restrictions affecting the majority of England’s population from Wednesday, pubs can only serve alcohol to customers consuming a substantial meal – something that would normally be considered a main course.

<p>Sir Keir said many businesses are receiving less support than they did during the first wave</p>PA

Sir Keir said many businesses are receiving less support than they did during the first wave

PA

Simon Emeny, the chief executive of brewers Fuller, Smith and Turner, said a one-off payment of £1,000 will not be enough to save many wet pubs.

“A thousand pounds really doesn’t really go any way to solving the financial armageddon that many individual and independent operators are going to face,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

“The challenge for wet-led pubs is if they don’t sell food they will find it impossible to operate, but you have still got bills to pay.

“They have still got to pay potentially rent, insurance costs, national insurance and the apprenticeship levy. That is far more than £1,000.”

Greater Manchester’s night-time economy tsar, Sacha Lord, said the wet pubs grant was an “insulting token gesture”.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said the grant was the equivalent to just 1.1 per cent of last year’s takings, and it fell “far short of the bare minimum required to keep these businesses alive”.

“The Government’s entire approach to this lacked any sliver of logic, as evidenced by the farcical debate around Scotch eggs over the past 24 hours," said Ms Nicholls.

“There needs to be a much clearer and supportive approach from the Government and this means providing far more support immediately.

“The new tier system condemns nine out of 10 hospitality businesses to being unviable by the new year.”

FSB London Regional Chair Michael Lassman added that the proposed funds for wet pubs “hardly scratch the surface”.

“Today’s announcement simply does not go far enough at resolving this problem for wet pubs," said Mr Lassman.

"The proposed funds from the Government hardly scratch the surface and we need to see this figure quadrupled at a bare minimum if it is going to have any genuine positive impact for the businesses affected.

“These funds would only cover the cost of a single keg of beer and very little more, which will come as little comfort to pubs who churn out multiple kegs a day during the festive period”.

It comes after the debate on what constitutes a substantial meal reached new levels of confusion after Michael Gove said a Scotch egg was “probably a starter" before changing his tune and saying it counted as a substantial meal.

Pubs in Tier 3 are banned from opening except for takeaway and delivery services.

Analysis by real estate adviser Altus Group indicated that 20,813 pubs will be in England’s Tier 2 from Wednesday.

Some 16,010 will be in Tier 3.

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