Dear Friends of Shepherd Neame,
Firstly, I would like to wish you and your families a very happy new year.
Let’s hope 2021 brings the return to joy and laughter that we all crave! However, it has clearly not started in the way we had hoped, following yesterday’s announcement that we are returning to a third national lockdown.
It seems that the only realistic way to emerge from this crisis is by delivering the mass vaccination programme as quickly as possible. To this end - as others in our sector have done – we have offered up some of our pubs to act as vaccination hubs, in target areas. In the main they are well located, spacious and with large refrigeration capacity, and so could be ideal.
We have also asked the Government to enable companies to organise vaccinations for its own team members - under the supervision, of course, of appropriately trained healthcare professionals. Every year we provide flu vaccinations to brewery team members, and would like to offer the new vaccine to all team members as soon as possible. We feel this approach, if followed by other organisations, could greatly accelerate the national vaccine delivery.
The longer this crisis goes on, the greater the economic pain and hardship for us all, particularly in the hospitality sector. We remain committed to supporting our licensees and so have cancelled rent for all our pubs. We welcome today’s announcement that businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are to receive one-off emergency grants of up to £9,000.
However, grants are no substitute for being able to trade again, and we are joining others in our industry calling for sustained investment in our recovery, in the form of an ongoing cut in VAT, and cancellation of business rates for another year to 2022.
In Lockdown 1, our 320 pubs and hotels were shut for 105 days. By mid-February 2021, the majority of our pubs will have been shut for a further similar time period. Over the summer of 2020, we traded with ever tightening restrictions through to November 5. This cannot go on. We need to get businesses open again for Easter, at the latest, so that we can all enjoy great British hospitality again in safe and regulated environments. We are willing to play our part to help the national effort to get us to this point as quickly as possible.
These remain challenging times, but I am confident that, as a business and as individuals, we can dig deep and find the resilience in ourselves to get through the next few months.
There are many who think we will see a return to the “Roaring Twenties”. Let's hope so and let’s remain positive about the future.
With my thanks and very best wishes,
Shepherd Neame Chief Executive