Independent Sheffield breweries warn they could close over 'damaging' new legislation

Small breweries in Sheffield face going out of business if a ‘damaging’ new cut to beer duty relief goes ahead, it has been warned.

Tuesday, 9th February 2021, 10:42 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th February 2021, 10:49 am

Independent brewers in Sheffield have said that the proposed changes to access to the ‘Small Brewers Relief’ ‘could not have come at a worse time’.

Small Brewers Relief is a beer duty relief implemented to give reduced beer duty rates to small businesses struggling due to the pandemic.

Sales of beer produced by such breweries have reportedly fallen by 80 per cent and national figures show that two small breweries are going out of business every week.

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Loxley Brewery

A spokesperson for Loxley Brewery said: “Small Brewers’ Relief has been a lifeline to independent breweries.

“Without the scheme, breweries such as ours would not have been able to grow by reinvesting the duty relief back into the business, purchasing new equipment to increase our capacity, create jobs and boost the local economy.

With the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the hospitality industry, the proposed change to SBR could not have come at a worse time for the industry, especially after pubs – a lifeline especially for predominantly cask and keg producing breweries – have been closed for months on end and brewers are struggling to make ends meet.

Olivia Blake MP

"As a predominantly cask producing brewery with ambitions to grow, penalising brewers by reducing the annual threshold to 2100HL will only result in many closing their shutter doors for one last time as they face mounting bills on top of decreasing sales.

“All this on top of successive lockdowns on the hospitality industry is nothing short of a slap in the face for a nation that has culturally, economically and historically been the centre of brewing for many centuries.”

The changes to SBR would see the the maximum amount of beer produced each year reduced to 2100HL in order to qualify for the relief.

Until now that threshold has been 5,000HL (around 880,000 pints), and was introduced in 2002 as a 50 per cent relief rate to help small brewers complete with larger ones in spite of higher production costs.

Olivia Blake, Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, has called on the Government to abandon the plans for the proposed cuts.

Ms Blake said: "Hallam is home to a number of breweries – in Bradfield, Crosspool and Loxley. Bradfield Brewery, a family-run business, was established in 2005 and is one of the largest breweries in Sheffield.

"At this critical time, when small breweries so desperately need more support, the government is proposing the opposite

“Over the past month I have been working with local brewers and campaigners to reverse these proposed cuts.

"I have tabled a Parliamentary Motion, to call on the government to rethink this damaging plan.”

A Government spokesperson disagreed that the changes to access to the relief would negatively impact small breweries.

The Treasury spokesperson said: “After extensive consultation on small brewers’ relief, we’ve taken the decision to reform the way the relief works to help more businesses in the sector grow.

"Over 80 per cent of businesses will be unaffected by these changes, and we’re consulting with industry on technical design of the reforms.”