'Energy crisis a bigger threat than Covid' say pub bosses across East Anglia

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Brewery and pub bosses say they fear the cost of living crisis could hit "worse than the Covid-19 pandemic".

Some of the UK's biggest brewers - including Greene King and Carlsberg - are now calling for urgent government help to support beleaguered landlords as they try to keep their businesses afloat.

In an open letter to the prime minister the companies highlight how one small pub has seen its energy bill shoot up by more than £30,000 on the previous year's bill.

They say without urgent help many could be forced to call time.

One small pub has seen its energy bill shoot up by more than £30,000 on the previous year's bill. Credit: ITV Anglia

Oliver Thain, managing director of Cambs Cuisine, which owns five pubs and two restaurants across Cambridgeshire said: "This could have a bigger impact than Covid on our sector, for sure, unless the government reacts pretty damn quick.

"The easiest and the best way would just be a cut in VAT because I just don't think we can put prices up for our customer too much.

"We're determined as a business not to do that, which makes it very difficult when your fixed costs are rising so rapidly."

Phipps Brewery was established in Northamptonshire in 1801, and is another which has spoken out about the struggles it is facing.

The current manager said the brewery was now facing its most difficult decisions yet.

Samantha Toyne said: "It's almost impossible with the price of everything going up so much.

"We've got to think of our customers as well as our own production and a lot of our customers are small, independent pubs, so we've got to think of them with their rising costs.

"We don't want to be putting our prices up so that they can't afford to buy the beer."

Phipps Brewery, Northampton Credit: ITV Anglia

Industry giant Carlsberg, which brews in Northamptonshire, and Greene King in Suffolk, were among the six to sign the open letter to the government, as well as Admiral Taverns that runs The Old Ram in Tivetshall in Norfolk.

It warned of real and serious irreversible damage if the government failed to act, with pubs, restaurants and bars across the country being forced into closure.

Victoria MacDonald, the landlord at The Old Ram, told ITV News her energy bills had already doubled.

She said: "When I first got my email it felt like a punch in the stomach and that was only at a 100% increase - some pubs are facing 300% increases.

"We are now talking about things like what time we put glass washers on, can we keep the kitchen fans to a minimum?

"But all of this will impact also on the hours that we serve so we might have to cut down on some of the service hours that we offer to our customers."

At Adnams in Southwold in Suffolk, the impact is two-fold. Along with the bumper cost of brewing 30 million pints a year, the company is concerned about the effect on its dozens of pub tenants.

Fergus Fitzgerald, production director, said: "The government needs to come in and tell us what they're going to do - because at the moment businesses are making decisions about what they're going to do in the next two or three months.

"So they need to know now what help is going to be available. I think it needs to be a response on the scale of the pandemic. It needs to be taken that seriously."

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