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Catch up with the latest developments involving BII licensee support, taking member statistics to the heart of Government, and interviews with CEO Steven Alton.

The Critical need for collaboration between Local Authorities and hospitality businesses

The One Voice group of industry and consumer trade bodies have today written to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government regarding the news that the temporary extension to Pavement Licenses has now been made permanent.

Lockdown legacy threatens the recovery of our nations’ pubs

The BII has today released the results of its most recent survey of operator members, detailing the impact that the pandemic has had on their businesses, the fragility of their pubs as they start their recovery and what support will be needed to safeguard their futures.

Ahead of all restrictions being lifted across the UK, the results show a clear picture of debts built up over the last 17 months, and rising costs across all areas of their businesses, from staffing to increased costs for utilities, food and drink supplies.

The survey revealed that 55% of respondents have accrued pandemic specific debts of over £20k per site, with more than 1 in 4 having debts of up to £80k. They will also need considerable time to pay back these debts, with 57% needing more than 2 years and 1 in 2 of those needing more than 5 years to repay debts.

Only 42% of respondents are confident of returning to profit once all restrictions are lifted as increased costs and debt repayments impact their businesses.  At the same time 72% will be facing full rent payments after 19th July. 

Staffing remains a huge challenge for pubs with nearly 1 in 2 struggling to recruit the staff they need.  Additionally 72% of operators are having to raise wages for front of house staff. 40% of these have had to increase wages by more than 10% to attract and retain staff. Similarly 57% have had to raise wages for back of house and kitchen staff, with 48% having to increase wages by more than 10%.

43% have also seen a rise in the cost of food, with 59% reporting increases of between 11% and 50%. In addition 41% say they have seen a rise in the cost of drinks, with 72% reporting a rise of up to 10%. 

Utilities costs are also rising dramatically, with 30% reporting an increase from last year. Half of these have seen increases up to 25%, but a fifth have seen rises of up to 50%. 10% have either been refused supply, or had to pay up front for their gas, electric or water services.

Steven Alton, BII CEO commented:

“The resilience, goodwill and determination of our nations’ pubs has been incredible to witness over the course of the pandemic. However, it is clear to see that this alone will now not be enough to ensure that their businesses survive.

“The threat is very real as confirmed in The Bank of England’s latest Financial Stability Report, released this week, which points to the particular vulnerability of small hospitality businesses as the economy emerges from COVID-19 restrictions.

“These small businesses are essential and valued hubs of their communities, providing accessible, social spaces for everyone to come together to connect, celebrate and commiserate.  Pubs provide so much more than just a place to socialise, contributing significantly to local employment, local suppliers and the wider economy, with the average pub paying around £140k into the treasury every year.

“They urgently need support from Government in the form of an extension of the Business Rates holiday to April 2022 for England to match the devolved nations, an extended VAT reduction, an immediate cut to duty on draught products specifically for pubs and an urgent reform of the entire rates system.  This support is an investment in the future of not only these vibrant and vital community spaces, but also in the economic recovery of the UK.  

“Our pubs are an essential part of our national heritage and will be needed now more than ever as we rebuild the social connections that we have lost over the last 17 months.  With ongoing support, they can be at the heart of the economic recovery as well as at the heart of communities across the UK, bringing us all back together again.”

Test & Trace and Staff Shortages

A letter from CEO, Steven Alton to members regarding the struggles with self-isolation and test and trace, causing staff shortage across the industry and how the Trades Bodies are talking to the Government to gain clarity on the situation.

 The Prime Minister's announcement earlier this week that Monday 19th July is likely to see all restrictions lifted across England, was a huge step towards your businesses being able to trade freely once more. For our members in Wales and Scotland, restrictions remain in place and we hope for positive news from their reviews next week. Monday morning's INNfocus, will also detail how you need to apply for your continued rate relief in Scotland and reminds Welsh members about accessing the further financial support available from next week.

Despite this positive move for England however, we know that for many of you, the current self-isolation guidance, particularly from the NHS Covid 19 App remains a huge barrier for you to operate your pubs and further impacts profitability. Many have described the situation as lockdown under another name, with over a third of hospitality staff currently being instructed to self-isolate, and many venues forced to close due to a lack of team members.

We have been in constant communication with senior officials across Government, impressing upon them the urgent need for a resolution to the high levels of isolation instructions for team members. These are, in many cases, not people who have been in direct contact with someone testing positive, but as their phones have been in venue at the same time, they have been deemed as being a close contact and the app has instructed them to self isolate. All this against a background of professionally run venues, mitigating risk by wearing masks, keeping socially distanced from customers and ensuring that all Covid secure guidelines are being adhered to.

There have been many confusing reports in the media, with conflicting advice from Government and the NHS as to when you are legally required to self-isolate. Below, we share some useful guidance produced by our colleagues at UKH about legal requirements for self-isolation, which differ depending on how you have been contacted. We are working alongside the other key trade bodies on this critical issue and will bring you further guidance as it develops.

The news that self-isolation for under 18's and those who have received two doses of the vaccine will not be necessary from 16th August, whilst positive, will not help our sector over the next 6 weeks of key trading. In addition, many younger hospitality workers will not have had their second dose, representing a huge resourcing challenge for our already under-staffed industry.

Rest assured that we are doing everything in our power to get a swift resolution from Government that will enable you to begin the road to recovery for your fragile businesses.

 

Perfect Storm for Pubs

Our CEO Steven Alton takes the opportunity to thank our members and the wider community of licensees for engaging with our team and surveys, as well as detailing upcoming news and opportunities such as the Kickstart Scheme and the announcement due from PM Boris Johnson.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued feedback from recent surveys, and ongoing engagement with our team. The information that you have given us means that we are fully aware of the challenges that you are facing, and the priorities for your businesses.
 
For many of you, the ongoing restrictions have significantly impacted on your ability to trade profitably, in particular with the lost opportunity around critical summer trading. The Summer of Sport and the success of England in the Euros so far has meant that you could have welcomed many more customers to your venues, giving a welcome boost to your profits in June and July.
 
Other fundamental issues include staff shortages across the industry, wage inflation where you are able to find staff, and the wall of costs coming back online including rent, business rates for England, and Government debt repayment (Bounce Back, CBILS and deferred VAT).
 
Another significant issue over the last few weeks has seen team members being subject to self-isolation after being notified that they have come into contact with a positive Covid case by the NHS Test and Trace App. There have been a number of sites facing full closure, and others seeing huge disruption to their trading hours and capability, with skeleton staff coping with high consumer demand.
 
We continue to talk directly to Ministers and officials across key Government departments on a weekly basis, to ensure they are in no doubt about the severity of these combined challenges and for the need for short and medium term support as you look towards starting the recovery of your businesses.
 
Most recently, we have been speaking directly to the Department for Work & Pensions around the numerous challenges of employment and the connected issue of current self-isolation procedures. We want to thank the significant contribution from some of our members, Anthony Pender from Yummy Pubs, Mark Holden from Inn Cornwall and Kris Gumbrell from Brewhouse & Kitchen, who all passionately shared their experiences, challenges and specific support requirements directly with Minister Mims Davies at the DWP roundtable event this week.
 
We continue discussions with officials on sensible adaptations to the current Test and Trace procedures, so that these work effectively to identify only genuine risks, whilst still ensuring the safety of staff members and customers.
 
To tackle the employment challenges you are facing going forward, you will require more than one single solution, however, and we would encourage you to investigate the Kickstart programme to see if this can help bring new blood into your business and plan for the future success of your pubs. We will be publishing our guide to accessing this scheme next week.
 
We are encouraged by feedback from Ministers and officials on the lifting of restrictions on 19th July, but will continue to take the insight that your feedback brings to ensure we call for the support that you will all need to begin to start and sustain your recovery.
 
Steven Alton
 BII CEO

Hospitality and pub industry leaders write to Prime Minister demanding support after roadmap delay

Trade bodies including BBPA, UKH and BII “bitterly disappointed” by delay which will cost pub sector alone £400 million.

Every day of critical summer trading lost for pubs is a step closer to business failure

The Prime Minister’s announcement today will undoubtedly impact heavily on your already fragile businesses. We have consistently communicated to Government, that a delay at any stage of the already cautious roadmap which restricts your ability to once again trade freely and fully, will be hugely damaging to our whole sector.

We are in no doubt that Government have all of the information that they need about the real danger for your businesses, and want to thank you again for your continued support in completing our surveys, as well as the anecdotal insight you have provided to your BII Team.

 

We knew that there was a chance that every step on the roadmap could potentially be moved, if the data supported it, but with nearly 50% of the UK now fully vaccinated, we will be demanding full and immediate clarity from Government around what data is needed to remove any restrictions for good. Your pubs, at the heart of their communities are built on the resilience provided by the summer months, boosted by sporting events, large scale family celebrations and being an essential part of the UK tourism offer. Put simply, every day of critical summer trading lost, is a step closer to business failure. Whilst many outside of the hospitality sector may perceive this delay as being a small price to pay, for your pub businesses, with 16 months of severe disruption & closure behind them, any further delay requires further and immediate support.

 

We continue to put pressure on Government to extend the short term support that can be provided to help minimise the effects that these restrictions have on your pubs. We have left them in no doubt that this is a perfect storm, as the pressure of the debts that have mounted over the course of the pandemic are now meeting the large number of costs coming back on line for your businesses head on. With rent, business rates for England and loan repayments all becoming due in the next few weeks on top of already heavy staffing costs and mounting losses, any delayed return to full and free trading MUST be met with further short term support.
 
You, our members, have been very clear on your priorities for business support. We have called for the following immediate measures and will continue to push for: 
  • Full business rate cancellation until April 22 for England, in line with the other devolved nations, 
  • Further extension of the VAT cut at 5% until next year, 
  • A targeted duty cut on draught beer served in pubs, and
  • Formal postponement of any form of Government debt, including Bounce Back & CBILS loans, as well as VAT payments.
 
Moving forward, I have been personally involved in meetings with Ministers about the ongoing support that you, our members, will need over the coming years to enable a full recovery of our nations’ pubs, those vital hubs in local communities that provide so much more than just a pint. Even without the delay, we know that the recovery of your businesses will be prolonged over many years, needing a long term plan to enable you to rebuild your livelihoods, whilst supporting local employment and providing the essential community service that has been missed so much over the last 16 months. We have seen the pent-up demand from customers desperate to return to their normal lives, but this delay and ongoing uncertainty will have far reaching consequences for every area of the hospitality sector, affecting the confidence of consumers, potential employees uncertain on the stability of jobs and essential investment in our viable businesses.
 
Critical to the recovery of our sector is the ability to simply trade free of restrictions and be able to plan for the future.

Steven Alton
BII CEO  

"Step 4 of the Government's Roadmap is like our Euros... there's no prize for second place" - BBC Radio Derby

Chatting to Ian Skye of BBC Radio Derby, our CEO Steven Alton balances the excitement of the Euros and customers celebrating our "Summer of Sport", with the uncertainty surrounding Step 4 of the Roadmap.

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