St Austell Brewery CEO believes many pubs could end up closing their doors for good without Government help – now

Eric Partridge

Responding to the Government’s recent ‘roadmap out of lockdown’, the Chief Executive of St Austell Brewery in Cornwall, Kevin Georgel, welcomed the Government’s decision to provide some much-needed clarity and remove some of the restrictions that prevented pubs from being able to operate viably in the latter half of last year.

This includes the 10pm curfew and the ‘substantial meal’ rule which, according to Mr Georgel were based on very little scientific evidence.

“All being well, at each stage of the roadmap, we’ll be able to open some pub gardens from April 12th, and provide indoor service in all of our pubs from May 17th,” said Mr Georgel. “This latest news will allow us to focus on the most important thing, welcoming back our guests and providing them with the very best experiences.”

The reality, however, is that many pubs will not be able to hold out until April or May without vital financial support. Many pubs – those with little or no outside space – will not be able to reopen until May regardless of the Government making it legal to do so earlier.

“It simply won’t be commercially sustainable for them,” continued Mr Georgel, who after five years on the St Austell board was appointed Chief Executive last year. “As a business, we are currently working through this ourselves to see how many of our managed pubs it will be feasible for us to reopen under these circumstances.”

According to the British Beer & Pub Association, of which Mr Georgel is vice-chairman, three in five pubs across the UK will have to remain closed until May at the earliest under the new regulations.

“That’s 29,000 businesses and a £1.5 billion cost to the hospitality sector,” Mr Georgel observed. “Those who do try to reopen with outdoor service only will also need support – they’ll have to contend with unpredictable British weather on top of limited capacity. Ultimately, many of our Great British pubs – part of our nation’s social fabric – will end up closing their doors for good unless the Government step in now.”

Founded in 1851 by Cornishman Walter Hicks, St Austell Brewery still remains 100% independent and family owned today. The brewery produces many of the region’s most popular beers for sale in pubs, bars and supermarkets throughout Cornwall, Devon and across the UK with Tribute and Proper Job being the most recognisable.

At the time of writing the implications of the Chancellor’s Budget on Wednesday, 3rd March were unknown but Mr Georgel has been calling on Rishi Sunak to extend support for hospitality until such a time when the industry was able to trade viably while supporting the nation’s economic recovery in the process.

He was hoping that the Chancellor would consider:

  • an extension of business rates holiday for 12 months;
  • an extended cut in VAT for 12 months;
  • a significant cut in beer duty – UK beer drinkers
  • pay 11 times more than those in both Germany and Spain;
  • the extension of furlough to protect jobs, until we emerge from lockdown in June.

“We strongly believe, given the opportunity, that hospitality should play a vital role in both our economic and social recovery. Our sector shouldn’t be pushed to the back of the queue once again. As always, St Austell Brewery stands ready to reopen our pubs responsibly – providing a safe environment for our teams and our guests.”

But focusing on the positives – according to the roadmap – all limits on social contact should be removed on June 21st, which would be joyful news for communities across the West Country and beyond.

“Pubs play such a huge part in our culture and contribute hugely to our social wellbeing,” added Mr Georgel in his open letter on the St Austell Brewery website.

“We will finally be able to come together, meet with friends and family, eat delicious food, drink great beer, smile, laugh, reminisce, and enjoy British summertime. I for one can’t wait for this day to arrive… we’ve missed you all and I can’t wait to welcome you back to one of our pubs.”

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