Christmas and New Year normally is one of those times when pubs and bars really come alive – be that celebrating with colleagues or friends in a lively City Centre venues, catching up with old pals you haven’t seen for a while in the community local or relaxing with family in front of an open fire in a cosy country pub.
For that reason, December from a business perspective is when pubs make most money and need to do so to get through the usually quiet January when people often stay in after the excesses of Christmas to save money or perhaps keep a new years resolution to eat & drink less.
Christmas really didn’t happen last year due to the Coronavirus lockdown with pubs restricted to operating as off licences only. This year is different as they can operate pretty much normally – the only restriction is venues opening later than 1am that have a dance floor are required to see a valid Covid pass as a condition of entry (proving either fully vaccinated or a recent negative test).
So where’s the problem?
Well, mixed messaging coming from the government has really damaged people’s confidence and many aren’t going out. Face coverings are required on public transport, in taxis and in shops and we are told the new Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire. No one wants their family Christmas ruined by having to self isolate and being unable to spend time with family at Christmas.
Some publicans are also worried about their staff and ultimately if too many of their staff are off sick they cannot open and are imposing their own restrictions regardless of government restrictions – such as asking customers to move away from the bar once served and asking customers to wear masks when not seated.
Looking beyond Christmas there is the threat of further restrictions coming but nothing announced, meaning publicans have no idea whether to tap any more beers or order any more food and drink stock in with the risk that it may all be wasted.
So less customers visiting and some pubs shut due to staffing issues, the government have now recognised there is an issue with better support required, however recent grants announced are tiny compared with the revenue being lost. We should also remember such problems are felt down the supply chain too with local breweries not getting orders for beer that pubs aren’t able to sell!
So, what do we do as CAMRA members then? Ideally keep supporting pubs with our custom or if you don’t feel safe doing so, support local breweries for home drinking with beer purchased either direct from the brewery, through a local independent beer shop or getting a take out from a pub. In addition do ensure your local MP and councillors understand the situation the pubs and brewers are in and encourage them to support them wherever possible!