Portsmouth pub landlords call £6,000 government support package 'drop in the ocean' amid fears it's a prelude to lockdown
PUB landlords left in limbo over ‘confusing’ messages from the government have said the chancellor’s announcement offering Covid-hit firms with up to £6,000 is a ‘drop in the ocean’.
Rishi Sunak’s £1bn support package includes one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for struggling businesses amid the surge of Covid’s Omicron variant.
Landlords told The News the announcement was a ‘step in the right direction’ but hoped it was not a prelude to another lockdown after Christmas.
Tom Yaman, who runs the Duke of Devonshire on Albert Road, Southsea, said: ‘They’re not going to give this money for nothing - there will be a consequence. They will either lock us down again or there will be more restrictions.
‘I’d rather trade than have £6,000. I appreciate what the government did for us last time but people have had enough of it now. We don’t want more restrictions, we should just get on with it and accept the virus like we do with colds and flu.
‘I have to make a beer order costing thousands of pounds by Wednesday that will cover me until the New Year but I don’t know what will happen. It’s not ideal to pay all that money for beer that I won’t be able to get back.
‘Lots of Christmas parties have been cancelled. There has been a lot of scaremongering.’
Angus Reid, landlord of the Chairmakers Arms in World’s End, pointed out the scheme would only allow ‘up to £6,000’ per business and would probably depend on the business rate paid. ‘We only qualified for £1,500 support during the last government support package,’ he said.
‘It is something good but it is not going to make a massive difference. It is pocket money for us when you think our monthly wage bill is £10,000 and we would have lost about £15,000 by the end of December.
‘We have been massively hit by cancellations with 40 per cent of our bookings gone.
‘I don’t think there will be another lockdown after Christmas as the government can’t afford it but there will be more restrictions like table service and only being allowed outside.
‘If they had done this at the start of the month rather than putting the fear of God into everyone by telling them not to socialise then this would have given more confidence to the public.’
Garry Disdle, owner of Cha Chas on Palmerston Road, Southsea, said the move was a ‘step in the right direction’.
He said: ‘Anything that can help is of benefit but whether it is enough I’m not sure. I doubt the government has got much money left after the last two years.
‘A lot of hospitality businesses, probably around 70 per cent, are empty in Palmerston Road.’
Phil Estell, landlord of the Golden Eagle in Delamere Road, Southsea, said it was a ‘nice start’ but doubted whether it would be enough to see them through beyond January. ‘At least they have come up with something though it is probably too late,’ he said.
‘It might see us through to the end of January but what about February to December next year?
‘I don’t want to seem ungrateful but we have had to cancel a number of events and it has cost us dearly. We probably wouldn’t get the full £6,000 as we are not a high profit pub.’
He added: ‘I think it could be a prequel to lockdown, with it the government’s way of saying they will pay us to cover our losses.’
Neil Matthews, landlord of the Delme Arms in Cams Hill, Fareham, hoped the move was not a sign of further restrictions. ‘I hope the grants are an acknowledgement of the difficulties being faced rather than a sign of more serious action,’ he said.
‘We’ve lost 100 bookings and like a lot of other places have been hard hit. Having the grant is ok but it is a drop in the ocean to what we are losing.
‘I’d like to see a longer term solution like reducing the VAT bill. I would like to be told where we are going to be in a couple of weeks. I’ve got to place a big order until the New Year but I don’t know what the situation will be then.’
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Leader of Portsmouth City Council Gerald Vernon-Jackson wrote to the chancellor on Monday calling for support to businesses hit by an ‘unofficial lockdown’.
He wrote: ‘Whatever the decision of the cabinet the retail, hospitality and cultural industries are feeling the effect of an unofficial lockdown. Their businesses had been hoping for a bumper Christmas season to make up for the lack of business during the previous lockdowns.
‘I am writing to ask you to urgently look at additional financial assistance for firms that will suffer because residents are being careful and trying not to spread the new variant. If firms do not get help I am really worried that all the good work to protect them during the first eighteen months of this crisis will be wasted as businesses go bust and fire all of their staff.
‘This is really urgent. Managers are looking at their accounts day by day and they need an urgent announcement of help from the government.’
The treasury expects grants will be administered by local authorities and be available in the coming weeks.
The government also intends to use taxpayers’ cash to cover the cost of statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences for firms with fewer than 250 employees.