LONDON (AFP) - Britain's shuttered pubs urgently need the government to decide when they can reopen from the coronavirus lockdown to help them survive, the British Beer and Pub Association said on Wednesday (Feb 10).
Pub beer sales slumped by 56 per cent or £7.8 billion (S$14.3 billion) last year due to the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, which sparked a series of lockdowns, the industry body added in a statement.
"This is not sustainable for our sector. We cannot continue to hold out under these circumstances," noted BBPA chairman Philip Whitehead.
"We urge the government to provide clarity to our sector on when it can expect to fully reopen."
Much of Britain re-entered lockdown in early January to curb a variant Covid-19 strain that was deemed more transmissible, with restrictions similar to initial curbs imposed in the second quarter of 2020, when pub beer sales collapsed to almost zero.
However, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to outline plans for lifting widespread restrictions in England on Feb 22 as vaccinations gather pace.
The BBPA, which represents 20,000 drinking establishments across Britain, also published its own "recovery roadmap" on Tuesday, which it said should be implemented after the vulnerable have been vaccinated.
"The roadmap states that post-vaccination of the most vulnerable, pubs must reopen when non-essential retail and other parts of the hospitality sector reopen," it said.
"It also says that mandatory trading restrictions - such as alcoholic drinks served only with a substantial meal, no mixed households and the 10pm curfew - must be removed when pubs reopen in a timely way."
Sales had collapsed in 2020 from the previous year, despite a third-quarter boost from lower taxation and the government's temporary "Eat Out to Help Out" discount scheme.
"As a sector, we have invested hundreds of millions in ensuring that we provide places for people to safely socialise in," added Mr Whitehead.
"When pubs reopened in July, we did so safely and successfully to world-leading standards. When pubs can reopen, the restrictions they face... must be removed. They simply destroy the ability to operate as viable businesses."