Neighbours will be able apply for up to £250k to save their pubs

Lifeline for local pubs: Neighbours will be able apply for up to £250,000 to save a beloved boozer from closure using £150m scheme to be announced by Rishi Sunak in tomorrow’s budget

  • Communities will be able to bid for £250k in a cash-match scheme to save pubs
  • In ‘exceptional circumstances’, applicants will be able to bid for up to £1 million 
  • Chancellor says fund will help ensure ‘vital local institutions’ aren’t lost for good 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to announce a £150million fund to help communities save their local pubs in tomorrow’s budget

The Chancellor is set to pledge £150million to allow the British public to save their local pub or sports club on Wednesday.

Rishi Sunak will use the Budget to deliver a Community Ownership Fund to allow pub goers to bid for up to £250,000 to save their favourite local.

The fund, due to open for applications in the summer, is designed to help community groups to take over struggling pubs or other community assets in their area in order to keep them going.

In ‘exceptional circumstances’, applicants will be able to bid for up to £1million to save important and beloved community assets such as sports grounds and clubs.

Mr Sunak said: ‘Pubs and sports clubs are the heart and soul of our local towns and villages – they’re the glue that keeps us together.

‘This fund will help to ensure vital local institutions aren’t lost to those who treasure them most.’

The scheme is cash-match based so community groups will have the opportunity to double their money if they are able to raise the funds to help keep their pubs and sports clubs open.

The hope is that this fund will help the pub sector bounce back from the pandemic as fears have mounted that thousands will not be able to reopen when the country is eased out of lockdown.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the announcement was good news for the sector.

Communities will be able to bid for £250k in a cash-match scheme to save locals and could apply for up to £1million in ‘exception circumstances’ in government bid to save the sector

She told the Mirror: ‘We welcome this funding which recognises the vital role our pubs have played during the virus and should continue to play as the heart of our communities as we recover.’

The trade association said it believes 29,000 pubs – about 60 per cent – will remain closed when outdoor service is permitted in April.

It says this is because the majority of pubs in the UK do not have a big enough garden or outdoor space to re-open and serve customers without opening indoors too.

This would result in a loss of turnover to the sector of £1.5 billion when compared to trading in normal times, it says. 

The BBPA added that as this is unfeasible for the majority of pubs and that pubs should be allowed to re-open fully, outside and inside, when non-essential retail also opens.

The trade body said last year saw the permanent closure of 2,000 pubs – the equivalent of five pubs a day. 

The Beer and Pub Association says an estimated 29,000 pubs will remain closed in April as they will not have the outdoor space to serve customers when initial restrictions are eased.

As it stands, pubs will only be able to serve drinks and food outdoors in April and will not be allowed to fully reopen until June. 

Speaking after the Government’s roadmap was revealed, Mark Davies, the boss of Hawthorn Leisure, which runs 720 community pubs, said there was little to be positive about for the sector.

He said without ‘urgent support’, many communities would lose their pubs ‘forever’.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said that a ‘major package of financial support is imperative’ if the sector is to survive the pandemic and said the delay will make it more difficult for those ‘just clinging onto existence’.

She added: ‘It is much more than just an inconvenience for many employers in our sector, it is another delay that they cannot afford and, for too many, will not be able to survive.’

According to the ONS, Food and Beverage services – which includes pubs – dropped by 48 per cent last year. Alcohol drink manufacturing, which includes breweries, fell by 33.9 per cent.

The figures announced by the ONS follow 2020 sales data published by the BBPA last month, which showed beer sales in pubs dropped by 56 per cent in 2020 – a fall of £7.8 billion. 

Last month, Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin urged the Government to allow pubs to reopen fully for Easter, warning the industry is ‘on its knees’ and venues must be allowed back to save jobs.

According to ONS, Food and Beverage services – which includes pubs – fell by 48% last year

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin urged the Government to allow pubs to reopen fully for Easter

He said: ‘In the last 10 years Wetherspoon has generated £6.1 billion of taxes, something we are very proud of.

‘In the financial year to July 2019, before the pandemic, Wetherspoon, its customers and employees generated £764 million of taxes – £1 in every thousand collected by the UK Government.

‘Many people have correctly pointed out that the three lockdowns of the last year have been a disaster for the hospitality, retail, arts and entertainment industries, but our calculations show that they have been an even bigger disaster for public finances.

‘The taxes paid by Wetherspoon are mirrored by thousands of companies which have been annihilated by lockdowns.

‘As a result, government finances have been annihilated even more.’

Mr Martin said Wetherspoon has registered more than 50 million customer visits to its pubs, using the Test and Trace system, without a single outbreak of Covid-19, as defined by the health authorities.

Under roadmap plans, pubs will not fully reopen until June and can only serve customers outside in April. Pictured: An employee pulls a pint in the Tib Street Tavern in Manchester

He maintained that hospitality groups have provided the Government with information that ‘clearly demonstrates’ that pubs and restaurants are Covid-secure environments, following the investment of hundreds of millions of pounds in safety and hygiene measures.

‘The Government knows this is correct, since it has access to Test and Trace information.

‘Yet the Government has ignored this information and has even banned golf – the ultimate social distancing sport.’

He added: ‘Surely it is possible for the hospitality industry to reopen at the same time as non-essential shops, now that a vaccine exists, on the basis of the social distancing and hygiene regulations.

‘Unless the industry does reopen on that basis, economic mayhem will inevitably follow.’

Boris Johnson revealed the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown with schools expected to return next week on March 8.

The road map to recovery: The PM’s plan sees pubs shut until at least April 12 after Easter

The next stage of loosening will not be until March 29, when the formal Stay at Home edict is finally dropped in favour of ‘Stay Local’, and the Rule of Six makes a comeback.

It will be extended to allow two households to gather, enabling relatives to meet properly for the first time in months.

That date will also see the reopening of tennis courts and golf courses and the return of grassroots football.

But shops, hairdressers and pubs must remain closed until April 12 at the earliest – the same time gyms can get back up and running – regardless of mounting fears about the economic meltdown. Even at that point pints and meals can only be consumed outdoors.

Campsites and holiday lets can reopen for single households from April 12 – but international travel is completely off the cards until at least May 17.

Social distancing rules will stay in force until June 21 at the minimum, with a government review to decide their future after that.

The decision means that grandparents face months of waiting before they can hug their grandchildren – even though millions have already been vaccinated.

Sports can start to return from May 17, although venues will need to work on reduced capacities.

Up to 30 people can go to weddings from the same date, but are stuck at that number until the next phase of the roadmap.

Only at June 21 will all legal limits on social contact go, and the remaining elements of the hospitality sector be allowed to open.

The PM stressed that he is being driven by ‘data not dates’ and the timeline is not guaranteed.

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