West Country pubs and breweries call for government clarity on re-opening date

Credit: ITV News

West Country pubs and breweries worried about surviving the pandemic have called on the government to provide clarity over when they can re-open.

The lockdown is gradually being eased but an official date has yet to be announced for public houses.

Many landlords now fear that they will never re-open, nor recover, and that hundreds of jobs and years of tradition will be lost.

Pubs are regulated environments, they're licensed premises, we deal with the management of people day in, day out, it is what we do. In my opinion there is absolutely no reason why we cannot and should not be able to open our pubs on July 4th and we just need that confirmation from government.

Kevin Georgel, St Austell Brewery
3 weeks

The notice period pubs and breweries need to arrange stocks and supplies.

Businesses in Bristol, Somerset, and Cornwall have told ITV News West Country that they want clear guidance, sufficient notice, and a relaxation of the two-metre social distancing rule.

The Gloucester Old Spot in Horfield, Bristol. Credit: ITV News

In Bristol, the owner of The Gloucester Old Spot in Horfield is used to calling time in her pub but she says it feels like time has stood still since lockdown began.

It has taken Amy Devenish nearly six years to build her business and she is worried that her 20 furloughed staff members won't have a viable business to return to.

Landlady Amy Devenish says she's feeling worried and nervous. Credit: ITV News

You're worried, you're nervous, you don't know how to feel. To be honest you just don't know. At the moment it's just guess work. If it's the inside and the outside in July then that makes it a bit easier. But if it's just the outside, we have a covered area which would seat around 15 people which just isn't enough to keep going.

Amy Devenish, owner of The Gloucester Old Spot
The Huntsman Inn near Exeter. Credit: ITV News

The Huntsman Inn's landlord in the village of Ide near Exeter says the two metre social distancing rule threatens the viability of many pubs.

This pub's capacity is normally 50 people but social distancing rules mean it will only accommodate 15. Credit: ITV News

Our normal capacity is around 50 people at the bar and sat down. We've worked out that if the two metre rule stays in place we may get 15 or 16 people inside. There's questions about the viability of pubs on that basis - even if it reduced to a metre. The real key, the real trick is going to be making pubs a sociable, casual place where people still want to come and enjoy themselves and have a drink but doing that as safely as possible.

Colin Chapman, The Huntsman Inn landlord
The Strawberry Special has stood in Draycott for 150 years. Credit: ITV News

The Strawberry Special has stood in Draycott, Somerset for 150 years. Mike Toms has had it for 32 years.

He and his wife Lori have pre-emptively installed a screen and hand sanitizers, and even set their own hopeful opening date - but this has all come at a cost.

The industry is having to pay out to get Covid ready so it's another expense on top of everything else.

Lori Toms, Owner of The Strawberry Special

A lot of pubs are going to close down, we are hoping that we don't, touch wood, but if it fails then we will have to close.

Mike Toms, Owner of The Strawberry Special
Beer pumps have not been pulled for months. Credit: ITV News

St Austell Brewery has resumed brewing its cask ale but it could all end up disappearing down the drain if an announcement is not made imminently.

Credit: ITV News

Brewery boss Kevin Georgel said: "What we desperately need and what we've been saying to the government throughout is we need clarity. It is very difficult to make business decisions with any degree of clarity.

"We indicated to the government we needed three weeks as a minimum to get our supply chain up and working and moving to enable us to supply the pubs. What's hugely frustrating at the minute is we have zero clarity and the government have missed their own deadlines to provide that clarity."