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Posted: 13th May 2020

Dear Friends of Shepherd Neame,

Firstly, I would like to once again offer my sincere thanks for your continued support in these challenging times.

It has been almost two months since the Government decision to close all pubs, and I have been incredibly impressed by the way in which our team members have adapted and worked collectively to support the national effort during that time. I have also been personally inspired by your messages of support.

I am extremely grateful to all those members of staff continuing to work at this time, particularly our dedicated production team, who have been brewing beer in a ‘Covid secure’ environment to maintain sales to supermarkets and our export customers whilst ensuring their personal safety.

As a business, we have also undertaken numerous initiatives to support the local community, including:

•    Producing a ‘clean beer’ for use by the Copper Rivet Distillery at Chatham Maritime to create hand sanitiser for emergency services staff
•    Donating surplus fresh food from our managed estate to local food banks
•    Reopening our online shop, donating £1 to the Kent NHS Community Heroes charity for every case of beer, wine or cider ordered until the end of May
•    Teaming up with Kent Cricket to support The Rainbow Run, a sponsored run to raise funds for Kent-based hospitals’ Covid-19 appeals
•    Donating 200 Spitfire mini kegs to Macknade Farm Shop in Faversham to sell for charity, raising £1,000 for our Charity of the Year RBLI and £1,000 for Pilgrims Hospices
•    Supporting the RBLI’s VE celebrations with a donation of Spitfire beer and a specially-commissioned Spitfire cake, created by a Dargate-based artist 
•    Supporting local hop growers with a bumper order for Kentish hops

I would also like to express my admiration for those licensees in the tenanted pub estate who have demonstrated great ingenuity and dedication to their community by diversifying their business with the launch of takeaway and delivery services, not only for meals but essential grocery items such as bread, milk and fresh vegetables. 

In addition to our community efforts, we have continued to promote our portfolio, launching New Dawn Citrus IPA in a 500ml bottle last week. Originally unveiled last May as part of our Cask Club contemporary cask ale initiative, bottled New Dawn Citrus IPA has now been listed in 241 Tesco stores nationwide and is available in our online shop.

We now know that it is going to be a long road back to ‘normality’. The Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday, May 10 left many unanswered questions but the detailed guidance [] has given us a glimmer of hope that some pubs will be able to reopen from July 4 should the circumstances allow.

To be the first in and last out of lockdown obviously poses significant financial challenges for our customers and team members, and for the business. We warmly welcomed the Government’s support on business rates relief, business grants and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) furlough scheme. We are also pleased to note the extension of this scheme through to October as announced yesterday (May 12) by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, but we still need further detail on exactly how much support there will be for businesses during this period. Those on furlough remain so for now, and other measures announced at that time, including the pay reduction for senior members of the team and the rent cancellation for our licensees, also remain in place. 

I am continuing to lobby the Government on behalf of our industry, and have been undertaking regular interviews to support this with a variety of national, local and broadcast media.

It is our fervent desire to be able to reopen our pubs and all parts of our business as soon as the situation allows, and it is appropriate to do so. Our senior team have well-developed plans to ensure we are ready to resume normal activity.

Whilst it may be alien to many of us to reopen pubs with social distancing measures in place, I have no doubt that with the flair, creativity and ingenuity that our trade is famed for, we can still provide an authentic and engaging pub experience. Previous generations adapted to extreme challenges and so can we. 

We are in the business of bringing people together, not keeping them apart; it is human nature to socialise. We look forward to welcoming people back to our wonderful pubs.

Finally, I have been overwhelmed by some fantastic messages of encouragement from members of the public. I would like to thank everyone who got in touch, and assure you that we are doing everything in our power to protect our Company for the future.

Stay safe; Stay connected; Believe in a bright future.

With my thanks and very best wishes,
Jonathan Neame
Shepherd Neame Chief Executive