Jodie Kidd has experienced first hand how tough it has been for pubs to survive the pandemic
THERE was no better feeling at the end of lockdown than being able to sup a cold pint of freshly pulled beer.
After months of enforced isolation we all deserved a drink.
But for many of the nation’s pubs it has not been economically viable to reopen their doors since restrictions ended for them on July 4.
Around a third of English boozers say that social distancing, even when it is just a metre, means they will either lose money or just break even.
Many cherished inns remain closed.
It is a dilemma I have been wrestling with over the summer as I try to figure out the best way to keep our country pub afloat in the age of coronavirus.
While the Half Moon pub in West Sussex, that I co-own, provided a food and wine delivery service during lockdown, we have not yet unlocked the doors to let in customers.
It is heartbreaking to go into this beautiful pub on my weekly check to find it silent, devoid of the laughter, conversations and the celebrations that normally fill its beamed rooms.
Seeing the grass grow where people should be raising a glass and gleefully saying “cheers” is unbearable.
There is no doubt, though, that we are going to welcome back our loyal locals very soon.
We can’t allow this virus to kill off our pubs, which are at the heart of so many communities.
This is a war for survival, the gloves are off and we must do everything in our power to keep our locals alive while also keeping the nation safe.
The news that the Government is going to restrict social gathering to just six people following a rise in infections will naturally concern a lot of drinkers and licensees.
But the rule of only having six in a group already applied to pubs and restaurants when booking tables so it is not a significant change.
There is also clear evidence that landlords and landladies have been doing a great job when it comes to maintaining a record of which customers have visited.
The health of customers is going to be at the forefront of their minds and no one wants to be responsible for a Covid-19 outbreak.
The six restriction means that for the time being, pubs and restaurants won’t be the venues for the massive parties celebrating birthdays and other key events.
But people can still carry on with that great British tradition of saying: “I’m just popping into the pub for a pint.”
When we go out to do an errand, work or head to the shops, there is no better way of relaxing afterwards than with a freshly pulled pint or a glass of wine.
Just stopping by for a drink and a packet of crisps will help your local to pay the bills.
Licensees are very aware that the Government is not going to be able to provide extensive financial support too much longer.
Both the furlough and Eat Out To Help Out schemes have been a lifeline.
But by keeping those businesses going, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has had something in return.
Research shows that Eat Out To Help Out meant 200,000 staff in the pub and hospitality sector didn’t have to be furloughed, saving the Exchequer £250million.
Now many licensees will be hoping the Chancellor eases their financial burden in the next Budget.
The Long Live The Local campaign that I support has long called for a cut in beer duty.
At the moment a Brit drinking in a pub will be paying 12 times more duty than one in Germany.
The grants the Government provided during lockdown to help us pay our rents were vital.
Now they are coming to an end, the Chancellor could help us keep down our overheads such as business rates or, as many MPs are suggesting, he could extend the furlough scheme for the hospitality sector.
Worryingly, a quarter of businesses in the pub and brewing trade don’t think they will survive until next March.
Like so many pubs, the Half Moon can’t get by on the income of beer alone because the profit margins are so low after tax.
When we bought the pub three years ago we decided to focus more on providing food in order to make the business viable.
Now the one metre distance means we would have to almost halve the number of our customers.
Our plan had been to invest in opening up some rooms above the pub for accommodation, but Covid-19 means we need to rethink.
There will be a way around this, particularly with the support of our wonderful regulars.