United Kingdom

Rishi's £150million pub lifeline: Sunak unveils scheme to help locals to BUY their struggling boozer

Thirsty locals will be able to apply for cash to help takeover struggling local pubs under plans unveiled today by Rishi Sunak in the Budget.

The £150million Community Ownership Fund will provide grants of up to £250,000 to help rescue boozers and other 'assets' that are at threat of closing permanently.

The fund, due to open for applications in the summer will also allow bids for up to £1million in 'exceptional circumstances'  to save venues like sports grounds and clubs.

It comes as the hospitality industry buckles under massive strain caused by months and months of lockdown in the past year.  

Speaking before the Budget, Mr Sunak said: 'Pubs and sports clubs are the heart and soul of our local towns and villages – they're the glue that keeps us together.

'This fund will help to ensure vital local institutions aren't lost to those who treasure them most.'

The scheme is cash-match based so community groups will have the opportunity to double their money if they are able to raise the funds to help keep their pubs and sports clubs open. 

Speaking before the Budget, Mr Sunak (pictured today) said: 'Pubs and sports clubs are the heart and soul of our local towns and villages – they're the glue that keeps us together'

The £150million Community Ownership Fund would provide grants of up to £250,000 to help rescue boozers and other 'assets' that are at threat of closing permanently

The hope is that this fund will help the pub sector bounce back from the pandemic as fears have mounted that thousands will not be able to reopen when the country is eased out of lockdown.

They have called for a current VAT cut to 5 per cent for meals and soft drinks to be extended for a year, and also expanded to include alcoholic drinks.

They also want a business rate holiday for the 2021-22 financial year. 

The trade association said it believes 29,000 pubs - about 60 per cent - will remain closed when outdoor service is permitted in April.

It says this is because the majority of pubs in the UK do not have a big enough garden or outdoor space to re-open and serve customers without opening indoors too.

This would result in a loss of turnover to the sector of £1.5 billion when compared to trading in normal times, it says. 

The BBPA added that as this is unfeasible for the majority of pubs and that pubs should be allowed to re-open fully, outside and inside, when non-essential retail also opens.

The trade body said last year saw the permanent closure of 2,000 pubs - the equivalent of five pubs a day.

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