Pub bosses have appealed for the easing of COVID restrictions across the UK, saying the delayed Euro 2020 football championship offers the perfect opportunity to help the industry and beyond recover.
The chief executives of Young’s and Greene King were among those to speak out amid jitters that final step on the roadmap for England to exit COVID-19 rules – currently pencilled in for 21 June – is under threat from resurgent cases, led by the Delta (or Indian) variant.
The hospitality sector as a whole is expecting a boost to business as summer weather takes hold after over a year of stop-start disruption to business.
The Euros, which begin on Friday, involve Wales, Scotland and England.
It is hoped that fans in the home nations will be able to enjoy unrestricted access to big screens both inside and outside pubs and bars as the tournament plays out across 11 countries – with the semi-finals and final to be played at London’s Wembley Stadium.
The crowds have the potential to be much larger than would normally be the case because none of those overseas host countries are on the so-called green list, which would allow travel without quarantine requirements.
Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News on Tuesday to urge caution on breaks abroad, saying his advice would be to “holiday at home”.
Figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier showed fewer than a quarter of pub owners were “highly confident” that they would survive the next three months – given the uncertainties ahead.
The ale economy survey, compiled in early May, suggested only 24% of companies were extremely optimistic about the future, with more than 55% of all staff still on furlough.
Almost 10,000 licensed premises were reported to have closed permanently last year – a figure certain to have risen because of continued disruption in 2021.
The industry is campaigning for additional taxpayer aid to help boost employment and the wider economic recovery at a time when it is unclear what regulations they will face in the coming weeks.
Greene King boss Nick Mackenzie said: “There is a real risk that restrictions may remain in place, meaning that pubs will be unable to trade profitably as crucial financial support falls away.
“If that happens, the impact on pubs will be huge and it’s going to be a real struggle for many to survive.
“The reality is that we can’t continue in this limbo indefinitely.
“We are relying on the Euros and the summer to begin rebuilding and without the ability to do that, it is imperative that the government continues to provide support to save the sector, especially by extending the business rates holiday and removing the cap which will affect so many businesses.”
His counterpart at Young’s, Patrick Dardis, added: “If the government continues to make decisions at very short notice
and not engage properly with businesses, uncertainty will prevail and confidence will deteriorate.”
He said of England’s restrictions: “Having delivered against the four criteria for reopening, there is no reason that Freedom Day should be delayed beyond June 21.
“We need strong leadership from the government to save jobs and ensure the UK’s economic recovery continues.”