‘Change the rules or pubs won’t survive’: Landlord’s plea to Government

“Pubs are the backbone of Britain. And they need a fighting chance to make a profit. If the rules don’t change, they won’t survive.”

James Stevens is landlord of The Chapel House pub
James Stevens is landlord of The Chapel House pub

Pub landlord James Stevens is petitioning the Government to change the rules so pubs can provide bar service again – currently under the new Covid regulations, pubs and restaurants must shut at 10pm and they can only provide table service.

But James, who runs The Chapel House in Gornal, said for small pubs like his, it’s been a real worry.

“We can hold 32 people with the new restrictions, it was about 70 to 80 before with the beer garden but we can’t open that now as it can’t be policed,” he said.

“With these new rules, you can’t put a one size fits all policy on all the pubs – some pubs can take 120 odd people. But these smaller pubs, proper community pubs, they won’t survive. The wage bill can’t be met.”

The 43-year-old said the rules means he has to have a member of staff on table service, rather than just one behind the bar all night – meaning more wages to pay.

He added: “I’m just not making enough. I worked 10 hours a day seven days a week last week, and after I paid all our hard-working staff I had £90 for myself.

“We wouldn’t normally have anyone on the floor, it’s just not practical for a drinking pub. I was thinking bar service could be provided in these smaller places, as long as people wear a mask.

"Otherwise these pubs will go to the wall and won’t come back. It’s a real worry – and one we need to highlight sooner rather than later.” James has run The Chapel House for the past four years – his partner works as a nurse at Russell’s Hall Hospital.

James Stevens at The Chapel House

“I’ve no argument about reducing the seating indoors, my partner is a nurse at the NHS – I know how dangerous this is. But we can’t run the pub at a loss. One small change and people can go to the bar and back to their seat. It would make a world of difference.

"James has written to his local MP Marco Longhi, for Dudley North, about the issue. Mr Longhi has said he plans to meet with James this Friday to discuss his concerns, and stated he was committed to helping support local community pubs heavily impacted by the lockdown measures.

He said: “I share Mr Steven’s concerns about the future of pubs and the hardship caused by the coronavirus outbreak. This is a very difficult time and I know just how worried people are, not just about their health, but their livelihoods as well.

"Pubs are important to our culture and communities and it has been good to see that many have reopened. I know my ministerial colleagues do too.

"That is why I welcome the Chancellor’s Winter Economy Plan which puts in place further support to help tackle the challenges businesses like pubs now face.

"The Job Support Scheme will help participating business ensure employees on reduced hours earn a minimum of 77 per cent of their normal wages, helping keep people across the country paid and employed. It is also good news for pubs that the temporary reduction of VAT to five per cent is being extended by a further three months to the end of March 2021.

James Stevens at The Chapel House

"The Chancellor will also defer VAT repayments through a new scheme until March 2022.

"Businesses are also being given more time to access crucial loans alongside a more flexible repayment scheme for existing ones.

“As pubs play a huge role in British society, I will continue to support the measures introduced to relieve the financial burden they are facing at this time.

"I have been assured that the Government will continue to look at how to adjust support in a way that ensures people can get back to work, protecting both the UK economy and the livelihoods of people across the country.

"I look forward to meeting with Mr Steven’s on Friday to explore how I can further support not only his community pub but others in a similar position.”

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