As government ministers suggest pubs, clubs and cafes will be the last businesses to reopen, how will Britain's beer trade cope in lock down?
“Fuck her. You’ve got your pint, you’ve got your pig snacks... what more could you want?” - Nick Frost’s question to Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead is a good one. As they sit there in the Winchester, nattering over a few lagers, us Britons will have felt a certain warmth towards the scene.
In the comforts of a cosy English pub, Ed (Frost’s character) is looking to cheer up Shaun (Pegg) after a break up. Armed with pints, peanuts and pork scratchings, the mates survive Shaun’s tentative emotions by getting pissed and observing the array of personalities equally enjoying a drink in their local.
Unfortunately, since the 20th of March, none of us have been able to trot off for a cheeky one in our nearest boozers. Ed and Shaun never imagined they’d be fighting a Zombie apocalypse as they merrily skipped away from the Winchester, and similarly no one really thought, when they were enjoying the comforts of their local a couple months ago, the world would be fighting a pandemic.
The Coronavirus has struck right at the heart of our country’s cultural identity. 50,000 pubs shut their doors that Monday, leaving 50 million pints (give or take) unconsumed - reported the BBC. To make matters worse, mother nature has provided us with the ultimate middle finger: clear skies and warm temperatures, which feel all the more obsolete knowing they can’t be enjoyed in a beer garden.
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of U.K. hospitality, claims that a third of the hospitality sector would be put at risk if businesses were to reopen in December, a prediction made by Michael Gove. The morning advisor reported earlier this month that 10,000 pubs have been left out of the government’s grant scheme, making it difficult to envision a future for any independent business that relies on social interaction.
So how are pub owners coping with the lack of trade? Anthony Price, who runs the ‘Bedford’ in Tunbridge Wells told the BBC that he took £500 on that final night, but as the die hard drinkers staggered away into isolation - it would have been difficult for the landlord to feel any optimism towards the future.
Boozers in our native village of Waterbeach were selling off cartons of beer the weekend they shut. However, this response will do nothing to gratify businessmen and women, financially, in the long run. Landlords have set up websites for local beer deliveries, which people are growingly supporting; this is probably the most socially responsible way any pub owner can continue to capitalise on our country’s alcohol identity.
The self-proclaimed ‘King Of Beers’, although many would beg to differ, Budweiser have started the Save Pub Life campaign to try and shore up the future of British pubs. Avid drinkers can redeem gift cards that will be legible for spenditure in bars at a future date. Whether you like a bottle of Bud or not, the company have promised to match up to £1,000,000 worth of the procedures raised by the cause. This act of kindness will still do little to help the financial stability of our taverns, inns and taprooms.
Bristol, Newcastle and Manchester have introduced similar schemes to Budweiser, devising vouchers that can be used once businesses reopen. Seeing major City's unite in this time of crisis is encouraging, but smaller villages will have less financial backing to keep their beloved drinking establishments open. Nick Antona, Chairmen Of Real Ale, says many venues have become take away services to pay their bills, offering food and drink for locals to buy.
Not all local pubs originally adhered to the government's protocols; many provided die-hard drunkards with lock-ins to stimulate their consumption habits. Reports in Shropshire suggested that the Sun Inn had been doing this as recent as the 5th of April. However, the owners have claimed that those in the building, at the time, were loyal customers waiting for takeaways. Any businesses convicted of such shenanigans will now have their alcohol licenses revoked.
It is difficult to believe pubs will still be closed at Christmas, especially when such a statement was made by one of Britains biggest tossers. However, our thirst for a pint, or house spirits and mixers may not be quenched for sometime. Last year saw the total number of pubs rise by 0.8% - an astonishingly low statistic, but the first increase in over a decade.
Luckily, the Coronavirus seems to have made people realise just how much a pub means to us culturally, socially and leisurely. If our local drinking establishments can survive, an extensive celebratory nationwide bender will be paramount. For now, support your pub here.