Pubs which do not serve food will receive a one-off payment of £1,000 from the government to “recognise how hard they have been hit” by the pandemic.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that so-called ‘wet pubs’ will receive the £1,000 payment in December, to make up for a loss of earnings during what would typically be the busiest time of year.
Labour leader Keir Starmer hit out at the scheme, describing it as “small beer.”
Speaking in the House of Commons, he said, “Even allowing for today’s announcement on pubs which I think is the definition of small beer, many businesses are now receiving less support than they did during the first wave.
"That’s a huge strain for businesses particularly those that have been so long under restrictions.”
It has been reported that the wet pub grants deal was only agreed by Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak on Monday morning (30 Nov) after discussions with backbench Conservatives over the weekend.
What is a wet pub?
A wet pub, or ‘wet-led’ pub, is a bar which doesn’t serve food and relies entirely on the sale of drinks for its business.
While pubs which serve meals are able to remain open in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas, wet pubs are unable to open outside of Tier 1 areas, meaning the vast majority of the UK’s wet pubs will be unlikely to open until after Christmas.
Will the £1,000 payment be enough?
The wet pubs payment scheme has been met with frustration from many within the hospitality industry, who have raised concerns that the amount will not be nearly enough to make up for lost income.
Simon Emeny, the chief executive of brewers Fuller, Smith and Turner, said a one-off payment of £1,000 will not be enough to save many wet pubs.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he said, “A thousand pounds really doesn’t really go any way to solving the financial armageddon that many individual and independent operators are going to face.
“The challenge for wet-led pubs is if they don’t sell food they will find it impossible to operate, but you have still got bills to pay.
“They have still got to pay potentially rent, insurance costs, national insurance and the apprenticeship levy. That is far more than £1,000.”
The government has faced criticism over the rules for pubs under the revised Tier system, which allow pubs which serve food to open in Tier 2 and serve alcohol only alongside a “substantial meal.”
Chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls, said the grant falls “far short of the bare minimum required to keep these businesses alive” and amounts to around one per cent of average takings last year.
She commented, “The Government’s entire approach to this lacked any sliver of logic, as evidenced by the farcical debate around scotch eggs over the past 24 hours.
“There needs to be a much clearer and supportive approach from the Government and this means providing far more support immediately.”