We bring you the latest top news in industry from this week.
Déjà-brew as pub closures stay high:
The latest pub closure figures from CAMRA reveal that 14 pubs are closing their doors each week, prompting the real ale consumer’s champion to renew calls for fundamental action to Save Our Pubs.
As the UK prepares to exit the European Union, the Government will have the freedom to reduce Beer Duty specifically in pubs – levelling the playing field between the price of beer sold in social, community settings and cheap supermarket alcohol consumed at home.
This move is one of three key measures CAMRA believes the Government needs to take urgently to halt the tide of pub closures. The Campaign is also calling for full reviews both of the Business Rates System to fix the unfair amount pubs pay, and of currently ineffective legislation designed to enable pub tenants to get a fair deal from their big-business property owners – both moves the Government has promised but is yet to carry out.
The number of pub closures has dropped slightly from a rate of 18 a week last year, thanks in part to CAMRA’s success in achieving new local planning protection for pubs in England. But the figure remains far too high and without swift action, it is unlikely that many of them will ever reopen.
Jackie Parker, CAMRA’s National Chairman said: “Pubs are a very important part of our national culture and are valuable community assets which help to combat loneliness and social isolation. It’s great we have seen a drop in the number of pubs closing, showing that our hard-fought campaign to get planning protection for pubs was worth it.
“Protecting pubs in the English planning system was a necessity and a welcome move from the Government. However, it’s taken nearly two years for the trickle-down effects of the planning changes to show. Our politicians should back the asks of the Save Our Pubs Campaign in full, and show they are squarely behind pubs.”
Licensed Trade Charity gives £1.1m in grants to sector staff in 2018, 45% rise in people benefiting:
Staff from pubs, bars and breweries received a record £1.1m in grants from the Licensed Trade Charity in 2018, helping them to get back on their feet in a range of ways from clearing rent arrears and unpaid bills to home adaptations, educational grants, and convalescence and funeral costs. The charity revealed almost 13,500 people benefited from its free services in 2018, a 45% rise on the previous year. Many used the charity’s round-the-clock helpline and website. The charity thanked pub companies such as JD Wetherspoon, Ei Group, Stonegate, Mitchells and Butlers, and Fuller’s for increasing awareness among their staff. The Licensed Trade Charity also revealed in the last calendar year its volunteers made 976 phone calls to former trade workers who felt lonely, while more than 800 pupils visited the charity’s independent school, LVS Ascot, where bursaries and scholarships are available to children of those in the trade. For more information, visit www.licensedtradecharity.org.uk
Ei Group invests £1.4m to turn Wakefield bank into Craft Union pub featuring group-wide support hub:
Ei Group is investing £1.4m to transform a Wakefield bank branch into a pub under its Craft Union banner featuring a group-wide support hub. The Wakefield & Barnsley Union Bank branch in Westgate will reopen in May as The Union Bank. The pub will also host Craft Union Pub Company’s support team and a suite of training and meeting facilities for use by the whole Ei Group. The Pub Support Hub scheme will create 20 jobs. Ei Group chief executive Simon Townsend said: “The Union Bank is a magnificent building we’re looking forward to revitalising. Our people are the most important part of our business and this new space allows us to give them a base for the support and training they need to continually deliver exceptional customer experiences, share best practice and enhance their personal development.” The Union Bank will be Craft Union’s third pub in Wakefield. Craft Union, part of Ei Managed Operations, has rapidly grown to 285 pubs since launching in May 2015. The Craft Union support team is currently based in Preston.
Trade bodies back government vision on sustainable future for the high street:
Sector trade bodies have said the recommendations of a new report, which include reforming business rates, set a “positive vision for an evolved and sustainable future for the high street”. A report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee following its inquiry into high streets and town centres has identified the hospitality sector as crucial to their health and success. The recommendations include introducing an online sales tax, the receipts of which would offset business rates bills; a “holiday” for high-street retailers from rates increases resulting from investment or improvements in a property; and a reduction in business rates for retailers in high streets and town centres, which would have the additional effect of balancing competition from out-of-town shopping centres. Further proposals regarding planning and government support for the high street have also been welcomed. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls (pictured) said: “The report gives due recognition to how crucial the sector is to the high street as it moves away from the shopping focus of the past. Policies to drive growth and regenerate high streets must have hospitality at their core and this needs to be recognised by the government and local authorities. In the absence of the government’s promised full of review of business rates, this represents the most radical assessment of the state of the rates regime. This is a great starting point for opening up the conversation and beginning to address an issue that has crippled many high-street businesses, not least in hospitality. Many businesses are also penalised by a rates hike having made a significant financial investment into their property. A tax holiday would be a good way to remove this disincentive to invest, although the 12-month limit is not long enough.” British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds added: “This is a welcome step towards securing the future of the high street and the pubs that serve them.” British Institute of Innkeeping chief executive Mike Clist said: “The recommendations made in the report are a move in the right direction, which will go some way to helping our members overcome the challenges they currently face.”
CAMRA Chair Steps Down:
Jackie Parker, chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), is stepping down after a year in the role.
Parker, who has also spent nine years as a member of CAMRA’s National Executive, will be succeeded by Nik Antona (pictured), who will take on the leadership of the organisation following its Members’ Weekend, AGM and Conference in Dundee in April.
“I’m delighted and honoured by the confidence my National Executive colleagues have shown in me by electing me to take over as chairman in April,” he says. “Jackie has been a strong leader for the organisation and I’m keen to carry on where she will leave off – making sure CAMRA is effective in its national campaigns, especially in seeking much-needed reform of the Pubs Code, calling for a review of business rates on pubs, and campaigning to get a reduction in beer tax on pints served in pubs.”
Antona has been a National Executive member since 2009 and currently chairs the Finance and General Purposes Committee. He was a CAMRA regional director for five years, representing the West Midlands.
“It’s with great sadness that I choose to step down as chairman of the Campaign,” adds Parker. “It’s the right time, however, as I come to the end of my third term as a National Executive member. I’ve spent nine years as a National Executive member and served as a regional director for three years prior to that. I believe it’s healthy for an organisation to refresh its leadership regularly and now is the time to step aside and give someone else the opportunity to lead the Campaign.”
Articles taken from Propel News, Pub & Bar Magazine and CAMRA websites