Express & Star comment: No Merry Christmas for our pubs

Tidings of good cheer will be distinctly lacking for pubs this festive period.

Pub stock image
Pub stock image

No Merry Christmas for them. Instead there is a warning of Christmas carnage across the industry due to the coronavirus restrictions. It is forecast that large numbers of pubs will be forced to close, meaning of course that thousands of pub workers will not be working over the festive period.

The advent of an approved vaccine has lit the way to a better future in 2021 but many hard-hit enterprises may not survive to enjoy the glow of the new dawn.

Pubs have been under long-term pressures which have seen many hostelries disappear, and now the exceptional circumstance of Covid-19 is wiping out billions of pounds of revenue which those which have ridden the storms desperately need.

In contrast supermarkets seem to be sailing through the pandemic crisis. As Christmas approaches they will be even better placed as shoppers stock up on festive tipples.

It simply underlines what a supermarket society we have become. The supermarkets are powerful and successful because consumer preferences make them powerful and successful.

In an audit of winners and losers from the pandemic, they are on the winning side as people will always have to eat. It is easy to say that during the crisis we have all been in it together, but in terms of the effects some businesses and some sectors of society have been disproportionately hit through no fault of their own.

To their credit, the supermarkets have recognised that they have not suffered like other businesses and doubly to their credit, they are doing something financial about it. Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons are handing back almost £1.3 billion that was saved thanks to the government's business rates holiday.

And now the Society of Independent Brewers is calling for that cash to be used to give support to pubs and brewers.

Given the reliefs and grants given to big supermarkets which objectively don't need them, and the paltry support to date offered to pubs, it is an idea with much to commend it, especially as this returned cash is in effect a windfall for the government.

The alternative is to do nothing or little while the pub industry dries up.

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