Wednesday 2 December will see numerous pubs reopen across our fair city, albeit under significant restrictions. Much as we all have, venues have been locked down this past month as the nation attempts to get the Covid 19 pandemic back under control and you’d be forgiven for being excited about their return.
Brighton and Hove has seen some of the lowest rates of Coronavirus throughout the year and this number has dropped even lower in the past four weeks, and yet we are coming out of lockdown in harsher restrictions than we entered.
Pubs will be able to open as of Wednesday, but only those from the same household may attend, and they may only purchase alcohol with a substantial meal.
So far, so fucking stupid, but alas, it’s the Tories, so it gets worse.
In the last week three Conservative MPs have offered three different definitions of what a substantial meal is. We have had a cornish pasty and salad counting, a scotch egg counting and then “bar snacks” definitely not counting (when asked about a scotch egg).
Such has left venue owners as confused as anyone else, and it would appear such is not a coincidence.
At various stages of this year the incumbent Tory government has issued restrictions that have depended on personal interpretation – seemingly to keep their hands clean of any wrongdoing.
We were told to stay alert, stay safe and us common sense, giving the govt a handy “I told you so” if things got worse, and now publicans are faced with a judgement call as to what counts as “substantial” knowing that any misstep could be met with a massive fuck off fine.
It would appear for all the world that the Tory government would very much like to see the end of drink-focused pubs, and it is not hard to see why. These institutions are social hubs, often in the heart of population centres, and that is precisely the kind of thing the Tory party stands against.
Culture, arts, humanity, all are to be sacrificed at the altar of unchecked property development. Furthermore under new restrictions those attending concert halls, stadiums and opera houses can drink alcohol to their hearts content with up to 2,000 other people, but doing so in a pub is clearly beyond reproach. Much as those lolling about at the Royal Albert are not required to wear masks when seated, unlike us proles on public transport. It really could not be more transparent, lest we forget this is the party that made sure Grouse hunting was exempt from all forms of lockdown.
Why have pubs in cities when you can have penthouses and Pret’s? Why have independent establishments when you can all suckle at the Cirrhosis-riddled teat of big Tory Tim Martin?
The answer to all the above is quite plainly “Because I’m not a morally bankrupt Tory fuck”.
Today Boris Johnson rubbed salt in the wound a little bit more by offering pubs up to £1,000 to cover losses in the Christmas period. Now, for those that don’t know the average rent of a pub in the UK is £35,000 P/A (roughly £673 a week) and that’s before all other overheads.
Given that the current tiered restrictions are to be in place for at least three months, that means that the oh-so-benevolent government is giving shuttered venues just under 11 days rent, without a single penny for all the trade they will lose (some wet led pubs estimate December accounts for close to 25 percent of yearly takings).
This has understandably been met with much castigation.
“We spent a fortune and completely overhauled and redecorated the pub in the first lockdown… We muddled through until the second lockdown and prayed to be in tier one but no, we remain closed,” said Sam Smith of the Maypole Inn in West Sussex.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality said: “A one-off payment of £1,000 for pubs forced to close does not even count as a token gesture. Equivalent to just 1.1 percent of last year’s takings, it falls short of the bare minimum required to keep these businesses alive.
“The Government’s entire approach to this lacked any sliver of logic, as evidenced by the farcical debate around scotch eggs over the past 24 hours.”
Business retail expert Paul Mitchell added that the payment is the equivalent to 254 pints at cost price, or roughly two barrels of John Smiths.
Chris Soley, chief executive of Cameron’s Brewery went further.
“Seriously, £1,000 per wet led pub in December. Boris Johnson it’s game over for many in the sector now. You have single-handedly destroyed our sector, lives and livelihoods. Is it April 1st?”
“This is an absolute joke.”