Sheffield pub owner fears four of his bars could close after coronavirus lockdown

A Sheffield businessman who owns six pubs in South Yorkshire is calling on the government to do more to help hospitality businesses that are struggling to survive the Covid-19 crisis.

Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 9:17 am

The publican, who wishes to remain anonymous, runs six pubs in Sheffield and Barnsley and fears more than half of them will have to close due to a lack of profits, caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Pubs, restaurants and bars were ordered to close by the government on March 23 in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

Now a Sheffield businessman is concerned that at least four of his pubs will be forced to close despite customers being allowed to return to boozers up and down the country this Saturday (July 4) as lockdown continues to ease.

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A Sheffield publican has called on the government, insurers and landlords to do more to help hospitality businesses.

The anonymous publican had to furlough 70 workers and make over a quarter of his employees redundant, due to the high volume of rent he was forced to pay landlords during the shutdown.

He has handed the notice in on three of the pubs he runs in March because he was concerned the businesses would not survive another six months if trade is poor when they reopen.

The businessman shared how hospitality businesses will continue to struggle despite reopening next week, unless ministers and landlords do more to help.

“There needs to be some other measures in place going forward such as a reduction in VAT for the next 12 months or just something to help us bounce back.

"I think landlords could do more to share the burden because some of them are basically demanding full rent for the full period, despite us not being open.”

He knows at least 20 publicans who have handed keys back to their landlords.

"The sad thing is the current rent is unmanageable and these people who have worked in these pubs for years, some of them will have to come out because they can't agree a cheaper rent.

"But these pubs will then get let at a cheaper rent anyway because they won't be able to fetch a cheaper rent so I think it will bounce back.

"I just think it will bounce back at the expense of the current publicans that are in.”

The Financial Conduct Authority has brought a taste case against insurance companies to seek legal clarity to the extent to which business interruption insurance applies in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Sheffield publican tried to make a claim on his business interruption insurance for losses during lockdown in March but was denied.

He said he would have taken out a business loan that could have saved dozens of jobs if his insurer indicated they would compensate.

The businessman, who will start to open some of his pubs from next week, explained his concerns about welcoming customers.

"The biggest concern for us is bringing staff off furlough because once they are off furlough, you can't put them back on.

"If we bring a lot of our staff off furlough and then there is an outbreak and we have to close the pubs again then that would probably be it for us.”