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Sat 20th Feb 2021 - Sector bosses urge PM to consider essential community role of pubs ahead of announcing reopening roadmap
Sector bosses urge PM to consider essential community role of pubs ahead of announcing reopening roadmap: Prime minister Boris Johnson has been urged by sector bosses to consider the essential community role of pubs ahead of announcing his reopening roadmap on Monday (22 February). They said pubs need to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so in order to provide a safe place for people to socialise and drink in, as well as connect as a community once more. The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said the beer and pub sector has been one of the most adversely affected sectors by covid-19 and the lockdowns. In 2020 alone, a combination of restrictions on trade and lockdowns saw sales of beer in pubs plummet by 56% – a decrease of £7.8bn. The trade body said tens of thousands of pubs are operated as small family businesses, which also double up as a home, meaning despite being successful businesses for decades, pubs could close and many could become homeless through no fault of their own. It added the restrictions and closure of pubs has had an adverse effect on communities across the UK too, with “many losing their heart of the community and social hub”. Ahead of Johnson’s speech, the beer and pub industry has been very vocal on the need for pubs to reopen alongside non-essential retail once the most vulnerable in society have been vaccinated. They have also stated opening pubs outdoor only is not a viable solution because 60% of pubs in the UK – 29,000 – would still not be able to open, with countless more likely unable to break even in trade even if they were to reopen. BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The British pub has always been more than just a place to drink. It is where we go to connect. It is where we go to form community. Lockdown has undoubtedly had a significant impact on the well-being and mental health of all of us. Our pubs can play a leading role in bringing us back together once more, safely, in a controlled and regulated environment. As a community support centre, our sector is part of the solution in fighting this virus. I urge the prime minister to do all he can to keep the doors open of the British pub ahead of announcing his roadmap.” Supporting the BBPA, Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal said: “Lockdown has been a challenge for everyone and our research has indicated in the early stages of the pandemic (late March to June) when lockdown restrictions were at their height, 26% of all drinkers reported drinking more at home than normal. As restrictions eased, and people were able to get out and about, this fell to 15%. We are particularly concerned for people who already drank at ‘higher risk’ levels pre-pandemic and who have increased their drinking still more throughout lockdown. Almost half of these drinkers drink at home alone at least weekly, and drink to cope with stress and anxiety or to relieve boredom, or simply for something to do. For these drinkers, pubs provide a safer and regulated place in which to enjoy a drink in moderation and an important opportunity to be with others in a socially-distanced and safe setting. Pubs reopening once more have a key role to play in encouraging and ensuring moderate drinking.”

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