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Will the second lockdown mean last orders for your local?

Date 5.11.2020

At 10pm last night, pubs across the country called last orders, for the last time, until at least 2 December. What will the cost of a second lockdown be to our hospitality industry? University of Northampton Marketing Lecturer, Simon Wragg, who holds a Diploma from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, shares his thoughts on the impact of lockdown on our local pubs.

For many of us, enjoying a swift one in a local pub is a pleasure that, until March 2020 and COVID-19, we took for granted. This virus thrives on human contact. For the hospitality industry, pubs and bars, the price of this virus is high in terms of social and economic impact. Local communities are no longer able to enjoy their local pubs.

During the first lockdown, small brewers’ sales collapsed by over 80%, and it was estimated some 70 million pints were thrown away, bringing tears to many drinkers’ eyes – what a waste. This second lockdown is set to be devastating for many businesses, including pubs and breweries.

During the previous lockdown, sales of takeaway beer were seen as a lifeline by many publicans. Supermarkets saw their sales of alcohol boom, as they were able to sell to a thirsty, locked down audience, eager for a cool drink to ward off a hot summer. But many brewers, especially small, independent ones, did not see such a boost in their sales. The trade body representing these small brewers continues to argue for more assistance, support such as the extension of business rate holidays, grants to breweries and a VAT cut on independent brewery beer.

Last Saturday night, as the Prime Minister addressed the nation, landlords across the country rushed to check their cellars, and despaired that once again, they would be forced to pour pints down the drain, rather than into glasses.

You might not know that cask beer has a finite life once tapped. A life, which will be over in four weeks. This week, we’ve seen pubs slash their prices. It was as if the clock had been turned back to a bygone era – £1 a pint – as pubs sought to clear their cellars and make what income they could before locking the doors to customers and pouring away stock. Seeing so many pints sold at knock off prices, or needlessly thrown down the drain is upsetting to those who have carefully crafted their beer, and such a huge waste of many hours of work and attention by the brewers.

One small crumb of hope and positive news in an otherwise gloomy scenario has been the recent reversal of the Government’s decision on takeaway beer. No longer banned, drinkers can rejoice, well maybe raise a small glass, responsibly of course, to this decision.

Some landlords are reinventing their business, and offering takeaway pub grub, which can now be accompanied by a takeaway pint or two. But It will be dark days for those who can’t trade this way, with heavy hearts they’ve had to furlough staff and lock the doors. I hope they will be able to open again in four weeks.

Many of us will be counting down to 2 December, waiting, hopefully, to return to our cosy pub firesides, for festive drinks and toasting the work of a talented brewer – let us end on that positive note – cheers!