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The Campaign for Real Ale has written to the Health Secretary urging him to explain why pubs are facing harsher lockdown restrictions than gyms and shops under the new tier system in England from the 2nd of December. 

CAMRA is also levelling criticism at the decision to allow household mixing over Christmas in people’s homes but not in COVID-secure pubs, excluding thousands of businesses from newly announced the holiday exemptions. 

The consumer organisation, which represents 180,000 beer drinks and pubgoers, is calling on the Government to stop ‘scapegoating’ pubs for the pandemic and questioning why no evidence to support the restrictions has been forthcoming. 

CAMRA argues that pubs have invested thousands to create COVID-secure environments yet are unduly shouldering the COVID burden. The organisation is particularly concerned for the nation’s wet-led pubs that will be unable to open in Tier 2 or 3 areas after the 2nd of December due to the new requirement that pubs to provide a ‘substantial meal’ with alcohol. 

The Campaign argues that a new, dedicated financial support package is vital to safeguarding the future of local pubs and the breweries that serve them, warning that thousands will close this winter without intervention. 

Commenting, CAMRA National Chairman Nik Antona said: 

“Pubs and pub-goers are more than willing to play their part in reducing the spread of COVID – indeed, many publicans have invested thousands to ensure they offered COVID-secure environments over the last few months. Yet pubs continue to be singled out as a scapegoat for the spread of COVID-19 without any compelling evidence to support the claim. These incoherent and inconsistent restrictions will decimate businesses, cost jobs and lead to the loss of community pubs up and down the country.  

This is a make-or-break moment for thousands of community pubs that now face measures such as only being allowed to serve alcohol with a substantial meal – without any evidence presented that this measure would help to control the virus.  

“To make matters worse, whilst people will be able to mix in people’s homes over the festive period pubs won’t be able to open normally over the same period, a decision that spells doom instead of cheer for pubs this Christmas. 

The Government must urgently publish the evidence behind their decisions – or think again about these new measures. With 72% of hospitality businesses saying they expect to fail next year – even before these new restrictions were announced – it is clear that pubs and breweries urgently need a new, dedicated financial support package to survive. 

Ends 

Notes to editors: 

The full text of the letter is as follows: 

Dear Mr Hancock, 

We are writing to you from CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, a UK wide consumer group representing nearly 180,000 consumers and pub goers. We campaign in support of the thousands of publicans across the country that have provided a COVID secure, safe space for consumers to socialise in limited numbers.  

We wrote to you in late September about publishing the evidence behind imposing a curfew on hospitality businesses in England. Since then, we note that no evidence has been published, but that documents released from SAGE noted that scientists advised that it would have a minimal effect on stopping transmission of the virus.  

We write today to request fair treatment for the pub and brewing industry that CAMRA members care so deeply about. Government announcements this week have angered publicans, brewers and consumers alike, and inconsistent and incoherent treatment of hospitality businesses risks undermining efforts to stop the spread of Coronavirus, and spell doom instead of cheer for pubs this Christmas.  

The revisions to the Tier system announced on Monday place significant extra restrictions on hospitality businesses. We think that this is unfair, and that no evidence has been produced to justify it. First and foremost, please can you publish the evidence behind the decision to place extra restrictions on hospitality businesses but not on gyms or non-essential retail? 

Publicans and brewers all want to play their part in stopping the spread of the Coronavirus – and licensees have invested considerable sums of money to make their premises and operating processes COVID-secure, regardless of whether they have substantial food offerings or not.  

Publicans feel that they are being scapegoated for rises in Coronavirus cases, and consumers who have seen the efforts that pubs have gone to provide a COVID secure space to socialise in limited numbers are now angry at their treatment. Those operating wet-led pubs feel particularly aggrieved. 

Last night’s announcement has caused further confusion and anger. Licensees want to know why the Government is allowing socialising in private homes, but not in pubs that have implemented social distancing, improved ventilation, rigorous cleaning regimes, and complied with Test and Trace. Everyone understands that families and friends want to spend Christmas together, but they don’t understand why this can’t happen in COVID-secure pubs.  

Therefore, our second request is for you to please publish the evidence that serving substantial meals makes a pub more COVID secure, and that socialising in pubs is riskier then socialising in private homes this Christmas.   

We will be clear – CAMRA does not believe that the singling out of hospitality businesses is fair, we do not think that Government’s treatment of wet-led pubs has been fair, and we do not think there is evidence to support tighter controls than on gyms and non-essential retail under the new Tier system.  

However, if the Government wants to continue to impose restrictions and closures, our third and final request is for you to please make it clear to the Chancellor that a dedicated financial support package for hospitality and the supply chain must be announced tomorrow.  

This is a make or break moment for the beer and pub industry as we know it. Industry data collected prior to this week showed that 72% of hospitality businesses expect to fail next year, and 94% said that under the previous Tier 3 restrictions their business was unviable or loss making – which will now be the case for any pub in a Tier 2 area when the revised system comes into force.  

Starving pubs and brewers of trade at Christmas will be the final straw and makes the need for financial support even more pressing if the Great British Pub is to survive into next year.  

Livelihoods, jobs and community pubs are on the line. Our requests are simple – please treat pubs fairly, share the evidence behind your decisions, and advocate for a proper financial support package so that they can survive restrictions. 

Yours sincerely, 

Nik Antona 

CAMRA National Chairman 

Tom Stainer 

CAMRA Chief Executive 

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