2020/NO.20 - The latest expectation is that there will be limited opening of pubs on or about 1st July. We have been talking to many clients about the reality of making even a small profit if they choose to open at the first opportunity. The concerns are real and wide-ranging. Currently, you get rates relief if the Rateable Value is no more than £51,000 on the basis that the pub is closed for business. Staff can be furloughed if they are not working. Grants for closed pubs are available. But what if you do “open for business” and can only use say the beer garden and part only of the bar space due to social distancing? If there is no outside trade area then the decision is even more difficult.
For sure you will have to order in fresh stock for the reopening well in advance of the date. But how much and how perishable? Will there be a swift take up (we hope) or are you looking at say only 50% of previous trade. If that is the case and you have had to run say 70% of staff levels our clients tell us that there is little if any chance of making any profit. Keeping closed indefinitely will not generate any profit. The recent consensus of client opinion is to be very cautious to rush into reopening until you know you can make some sort of profit if all facing the lifebelt financial support dwindling away.
The other side of the coin is to wait and see how the pandemic shapes up and plan to reopen much later. The Chancellors furlough extension scheme is a helpful move but may diminish in later months. It is a terrible dilemma compounded by Pub Co rents being only deferred not canceled, excepting Admiral of course. Delaying opening to say this autumn has the spectre of three quarters rent to be paid off the back of what? Not very much at all. We do so hope that the Pubcos see sense and cancel rents but that lifeline for survival cannot be guaranteed. We like to be able to offer solutions but with this one our Clients are genuinely pessimistic. This bodes badly for the industry unless common sense and compassion prevails. To summarise, the majority of the clients researched reveals a very cautious attitude indeed about rushing into reopening, unless, and it is a massive ask, they can see some sort of sustainable profitability returning. Quite a gamble.