'Pubs, pints and people' need clear plan say Black Country landlords

Pubs should reopen fully alongside non-essential retail as lockdown restrictions are eased, bosses have said.

John Smith, landlord of The Chindit Inn in Wolverhampton
John Smith, landlord of The Chindit Inn in Wolverhampton

Government chiefs have drawn up plans to relax the current rules and create a "roadmap" which is set to be revealed on Monday.

Pubs are said to be allowed to open for outdoor pints – in beer gardens – by April under the current proposals by ministers.

But specific details have not yet been revealed by the Prime Minister who will announce the latest relaxation of the rules.

John Smith, landlord of The Chindit Inn on Merridale Road in Wolverhampton, said the decision wouldn't make much difference.

He said: "We've got a little bit of an enclosure area, but I've only got about four benches outside in total at the back – it wouldn't be worthwhile [opening], really.

"Being a real ale pub, most of our sales are real ale and doing a small amount of beer – it wouldn't be worth opening. Really, it's ok if you've got a massive area outside – but even if you have you're reliant on the weather.

"It might work for some pubs, but not for me. I think when pubs open they should open altogether."

Tom Evans, general manager and owner of The Wall Heath Tavern in Kingswinford, said the move could be viable – after the success last year – but it was dependant on the other rules.

Owner Tom Evans at The Wall Heath Tavern in Wall Heath, Kingswinford, pictured after the first lockdown

He said: "After the first lockdown, when we opened back up with the Rule of Six, it worked quite well for us – we were getting around 120 people in a night, socially distanced.

"For us, I think it would do us very well but that's if there's a Rule of Six outside and not the households mixing rule. That rule is so hard to police and you're going off what people say, really."

Mr Evans said any decision to reopen the pub had to be "financially viable" due to continued costs each week as well as staff returning from furlough – and would not be a decision "taken lightly".

Chris Southall, from Cannock Chase CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), said: "If the information that has been leaked to the press is correct and Pubs won't be reopening until sometime in April at the earliest then the Government must increase its financial support for the hospitality sector and extend the furlough until pubs are able to open with fewer restrictions. Many pubs will be unable to open if the previous restrictions apply."

Bruce Ray, VP of corporate affairs at Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company, which has its HQ in Wolverhampton, said: "Monday marks 336 days since our vibrant industry was shut-down. We urgently need three things from the Prime Minister as we emerge from lockdown that gives us a clear plan for pints, pubs and people.

"For our pints, brewers and their supply chain, which have been affected more than most given the closure of pubs, need confirmed assurance of sustained financial support, most importantly a significant beer duty cut, otherwise many could be lost forever.

"For our beloved pubs, we need confirmation that they will open alongside non-essential retail, and they can do so without arbitrary restrictions.

"Pubs can be part of the roadmap out of lockdown, given the excellent lengths they have gone to in making their premises safe for guests.

"And finally, but most importantly, we need to protect the livelihoods of the people who make the British brewing and hospitality industry what it is – a cherished national asset that we can’t let disappear or change forever."

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