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Fury at government's 'token' one-off £1,000 payment for 'wet' pubs

Pub landlords have warned that the tier system will force traditional old fashioned pubs out of business after the government's proposed support package was met with derision. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today that all 'wet' pubs that do not serve food would be given a one-off grant of £1,000.

He said the payout was to recognise 'how hard they have been hit by this virus in what is typically their busiest month'.  

But one pub landlord accused the Prime Minister of using the 'token gesture' as a means to appease Tory rebels criticising the tier system. 

The chair of the Campaign for Pubs, Paul Crossman, who runs The Swan, The Slip Inn and Volunteer Arms pubs in York, said the meagre £1,000 grant has 'offended' pub owners.

He also warned it spells the end for many old fashioned pubs that do not serve food.  

The chair of the Campaign for Pubs, Paul Crossman, who runs The Swan, The Slip Inn and Volunteer Arms pubs in York, said the meagre £1,000 grant has 'offended' pub owners

The new tiered Covid restrictions, set to be introduced when the national lockdown lifts tomorrow, will leave 99 per cent of England under the toughest two levels from December 2 

‘A lot of publicans are saying they are really offended by this amount,' he said.

'It might sound a lot to someone in the street but the revenues that pubs have to take to stay afloat, £1000 is nothing. It won’t save any pub, put it that way.

'The support package on offer still falls well short of covering basic costs for the vast majority of pubs, let alone compensating them for any of the trade that is being denied them over the vital festive period.' 

The new tiered Covid restrictions, set to be introduced when the national lockdown lifts tomorrow, will leave 99 per cent of England under the toughest two levels from December 2.

The tough measures are another blow to the already hard-hit hospitality sector, which typically pulls in a lot of trade over the festive period. 

Pubs and restaurants in Tier Three are permitted to serve takeaway customers only.

In Tier Two, people from different households cannot sit together indoors and alcohol can only be served with a 'substantial meal'.

Paul Crossman runs three award-winning community-orientated cask ale pubs just outside the city centre. They are The Swan (pictured), The Slip Inn and Volunteer Arms. He slammed Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the 'offensive' grant amount, saying it does not go far enough for hard hit pubs

Mr Crossman said the £1,000 grant ‘is not enough to make a tangible difference' to pub owners already facing mounting costs

Tier One is the only level that allows indoor socialising and applies to just Cornwall and the Isle of Wight, covering just 1 per cent of the population.  

The restrictions have also sparked a backlash from the Tory backbenches as the Prime Minister faces criticism over his 'lockdown by another name' for the majority of the country. 

Mr Crossman added: ‘This one-off payment is a token gesture to appease his rebel MPs. This statement today is pure politicking from Boris Johnson. 

‘It is not enough to make a tangible difference.

'It just reinforces the impression that the government simply have no idea what this is costing pubs in lost trade. 

'The support package this time round is not enough to even cover the costs for most pubs. Let alone compensate them for any lost trade.

‘I have three wet led community pubs here in York. We don’t do any food. We’ll be staying closed and we fall into the rates bracket where we’re entitles to £2000 every 28 days, which is a joke, because our rent is £1000 per week.

'It’s property costs that are scaring people. The arrears are mounting all the time. 

'Some people have tens of thousands of pounds in debt now. People are not going to be clapping for £1000. It’s a drop in the ocean and pretty meaningless actually.' 

The manager of the historic Queen Elizabeth pub in Walworth, south London, (pictured) is unable to open his kitchen even if he wanted to adapt his offerings to abide by the new restrictions

Announcing the £1,000 grant today, Mr Johnson said pubs, bars and restaurants are the 'heart of our communities' but admitted they had been forced to carry a 'disproportionate share of the burden' during the Government's efforts to slow the spread of the disease. 

Mr Crossman warned that the 'no frills' old fashioned pubs are the most at risk of closure as a direct result of the new measures. 

He highlighted how their 'wafer thin' margins meant thet would be the hardest hit by the enforced closures. 

‘These are the wet led pubs who have been serving their communities for decades or centuries and just selling beer and giving someone a place to meet,' he said. 

'Good old fashioned pubs, no frills. There are still plenty of them around, and some are thriving. People absolutely flock to those places to just sit and have a chat. 

PM will face hostile Tories ahead of crucial vote tonight with lockdown due to end at midnight, as he hints counties with different infection rates could be SPLIT into separate tiers

Boris Johnson will hold last-gasp peace talks with mutinous Tory MPs tonight as he seeks to head off a rebellion within his own party over new coronavirus tiers for England.

The Prime Minister and his chief whip Mark Spencer will hold a Zoom conference call at 6pm ahead  a crucial vote  due an hour later on new rules due to come into force at midnight. 

It came as MPs lined up in the Commons to criticise the Government plans, after the PM had urged them to back his 'compelling' case for his new post-lockdown tiers, amid claims of back-room deals and promises.

The PM struck a compromise tone as he opened the debate ahead of a crunch vote this evening, with up to 100 thought to be ready to rebel - although some this afternoon appeared to have started to back down.

In a key signal, Mr Johnson insisted that the government will be 'sensitive' to local situations - hinting that areas with low infection rates will not be lumped together in future with other nearby hotspots. He said the next review on December 16 will be conducted based on 'as much granular detail as we can'. 'We will try to be a sensitive as possible to local effort and local achievement,' he said.

He also announced that 'wet' pubs - which rely on drinks to make their living - will be entitled to £1,000 payments to help them get through this month.  

But Mr Johnson faced a series of hostile interventions from his own benches over the draconian restrictions, which will leave 99 per cent of England under the toughest two levels from tomorrow. 

Sir Keir Starmer warned MPs their hopes of being downgraded will be dashed, as Tier 2 will 'struggle' to hold infections down and Mr Johnson always 'overpromises and under-delivers'. 'That is not going to happen,' he swiped.

The premier has been left exposed after Sir Keir announced that Labour will abstain on the vote tonight - a decision Mr Johnson described in the House as 'extraordinary'. It means the scale of the rebellion will not be masked by Opposition support, although the government is still guaranteed victory as not enough will switch sides to overturn Mr Johnson's huge majority.  

Many Tories were left livid when ministers finally released an impact assessment of the measures, only to find it did not feature any new detail. Rebel ringleader Mark Harper said the 'wheels were coming off' the policy.

'They don’t have to have a gastropub or food even. People like not smelling chips while they’re sat there having a beer and a chat. But now we can’t open for Christmas.’

‘A lot of the old fashioned community pubs tend to operate on wafer thin margins. So a few weeks of bad trading would be enough to tip many of them over the edge. let alone a pandemic. 

'They tend to operate right in the heart of their communities. They are like a second lounge for people who maybe have no other form of social contact.

'If they close down it’s absolutely devastating to communities.'

It is a sentiment held by many of his publican coleagues, who say that the grant amount will not be enough to cover pubs most basic costs.    

Dawn Hopkins, the owner of the Rose Inn in Norwich, said: 'I would laugh but I really just feel like crying.'

She added: ‘I really don’t know how they think this is going to help.

‘During the first lockdown when we had the grants, £1,000 is less than a third of what I was given in the first lockdown per month. But nothing has changed. 

'I still have the same amount of fixed costs, the same amount of money is still needed to feed my family.

'We will get by. But the grant in no way covers the majority of publicans fixed costs, and in no way makes up for the loss of trade over our busiest period of the year. 

'It’s going to leave us all in a very treacherous position I think.' 

The pub owner is goig to try and keep her doors open over December by offering her customers a 'substantial meal'.

But this means she will have to adapt her kitchen to cope with the additional demand, having only served food previously at weekends. 

She said: ‘I’m adapting my kitchen this time. But with all the restrictions – people being from the same household and getting more staff In while I work in the kitchen – it will be a case of trying it and seeing how it works.' 

But other businesses are not so easily adaptable. 

The manager of the historic Queen Elizabeth pub in Walworth, south London, is unable to open his kitchen even if he wanted to adapt his offerings to abide by the new restrictions. 

His pub will be subject to the tier two restrictions that will be imposed on the entire capital from tomorrow.  

John, who did not want to give his surname, said: 'Pubs like ours are local pubs, we haven’t got the facilities to provide food in any shape or form. 

'The kitchens are backdated and you’d have to carry food downstairs which isn’t allowed for health and safety reasons. 

'I appreciate the gesture of a £1,000 grant, but it’s like shutting the barn door when the horse has bolted.

‘It’s not enough to make a dent on the finances.'

He also warns the new restrictions will not only hit pub owners, but customers who rely on these old fashioned boozers for company and a social life. 

‘A lot of my regulars live alone, or are pensioners and widows,' he said. 

'They come down to the pub to have a chat watch the racing, football and golf, and chill out for two and three hours. But if you force them to have food, they can’t afford it.'

When asked about the future for many pubs like his, he said: ‘I’m not very optimistic.’

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