Reopening pubs could help the community, trade body says

Helen William, PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to allow pubs to reopen as soon as possible as he prepares to reveal his road map out of lockdown.

Beer sales in pubs dropped by 56% in 2020, a decrease of £7.8 billion, due to Covid-19 restrictions and the lockdowns, according to British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) figures.

Emma McClarkin, BBPA chief executive, believes that pubs should reopen alongside non-essential retail once the most vulnerable in society have been vaccinated, as they have a community role.

She said: “The Great British Pub has always been more than just a place to drink. It is where we go to connect. It is where we go to form community.”

Drinking Stock – London
Pubs can provide a sense of community for many (Yui Mok/PA)

There are also fears over workers being made homeless as tens of thousands of pubs are small family businesses which also double up as someone’s home, the BBPA said.

Mr Johnson is preparing his “road map” out of the national lockdown, the details of which he is expected to announce on Monday.

Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal said the organisation is “particularly concerned” for people who already drank at “higher risk” levels pre-pandemic, and who have increased their drinking still more throughout lockdown.

Almost half of these drinkers drink at home alone at least weekly, and do it to cope with stress and anxiety or to relieve boredom, she said.

Ms Hindal said: “For these drinkers, pubs provide a safer and regulated place in which to enjoy a drink in moderation and an important opportunity to be with others in a socially-distanced and safe setting.

“Pubs reopening once more have a key role to play in encouraging and ensuring moderate drinking.”

Christian Wakeford, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm, said pubs help to create jobs while also tackling loneliness and social isolation.

He said: “The hospitality industry has been severely impacted by the effects of the lockdown, and we need to ensure that pubs and restaurants can-reopen in a safe manner and bring back their staff as we emerge from the lockdown.”

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