Seems as if a lot has happened since I wrote my ‘February Message’ and that’s probably because a lot has happened. Not so much in terms of actual changes but in terms of the Government making it clearer as to what their plans are, which allows us all to plan with a little more confidence, not only our businesses but our personal lives, as we creep back to normality.
The Government has laid out its ‘Road Map’ for recovery and all being well it will be able to stick to the dates it has put forward. However, we do need to be a little cautious as Boris Johnson has made it clear that he will be driven “by the data, not the dates”, meaning the dates given are the earliest, but he may need to put them back if the virus starts to take hold again.
So far so good though, with infection rates falling, less beds taken up in the NHS, less deaths and an extremely successful vaccination roll out.
The planning as it stands is:
- Step One – 8th March, the reopening of schools and from the 29th March the ability to meet in groups of six outdoors.
- Step Two – No earlier than 12th April, pubs can open outdoors with no requirement for substantial meals and no curfew, although table service will be required and a maximum of six people may mix, or two households.
- Step Three – No earlier than 17th May, pubs to be allowed to open indoors, (no ‘substantial meal’ or early closing required). However, there will be the requirement for table service, to order, eat and drink whilst seated, and for social distancing, whilst the rule of maximum groups of six people, or two households being allowed to mix, will still apply. Maximum of 30 people per group outdoors.
- Step Four – No earlier than 21st June, the government hopes to reopen nightclubs and remove restrictions on weddings and, most importantly for all of us, allow hospitality to fully open.
And with regards the budget, the Chancellor was largely supportive of pubs and hospitality businesses, with a continuation of the 100% business rates holiday for the next three months and then bills being discounted by up to two thirds for the rest of the financial year.
Also encouraging that the reduced VAT rate of 5% for accommodation and foodservice businesses being extended until the end of September and then an interim rate of 12.5% for the following six months. Standard rate of VAT for the sector will not return until April next year. Although this does not apply to alcohol, at least the duty rates have been retained at same level. There had been talk of there being a differential brought in for pubs and supermarkets, but this was not brought up by the Chancellor.
The Furlough Scheme (Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)) will be extended beyond end of April until the end of September, but will decrease from 80% to 70% for August and 60% for September, with the employer making up to minimum of 80%. This will be a massive help to hospitality, pubs and most businesses.
Grants will also be available of up to £18,000.
So the basic support is there for pubs, but not breweries, but breweries are nothing without pubs, although on the flip side, pubs are nothing without breweries. However, we have weathered the storms quite well and are looking forward to pints being pulled again, God willing!
All the best,