Dear Friends of Shepherd Neame,
Today marks a critical milestone in the history of this pandemic. After all of the grief, the pain and the suffering, this is it. We now have a clear way out – not soon enough for some, too soon for others.
Many people including myself have been highly critical of the Government’s handling of the crisis, but the rollout of the vaccination programme has been an extraordinary success that has surpassed all expectations. It has restored pride in our country, confidence in those that have received it and optimism in all of us for the future. Within Shepherd Neame, we are incredibly proud of the many team members and licensees who have personally supported the rollout.
Today’s announcement has provided welcome clarity on a roadmap out of this crisis. We will be able to open some pub gardens from April 12, and all of our pubs for indoor service from May 17.
We are disappointed that we cannot open for indoor service earlier and believe that pubs should open at the same time as non-essential retail. But the critical point is that from June 21 all legal limits on social contact will be removed. This is the moment that we can finally come together again to enjoy everything that defines the Great British pub - music, sport, laughter and chat. We are in the business of bringing people together not keeping them apart.
We also welcome the Government’s decision to remove the more unworkable restrictions introduced in the autumn such as the ‘substantial meal’ rule. Instead, we will follow the same exemplary hygiene and social distancing measures introduced last summer to ensure a safe environment for our team members and customers.
By May 17, the majority of our pubs will have been closed to the public for a staggering 192 days in addition to the 105 days of the first lockdown. We have supported our licensees by not charging rent at this time but all pubs will continue to lose money until the summer. All eyes are now on the Chancellor next week for his budget announcement. The whole industry is calling for the following support:
- An extended cut in VAT to 2022
- A beer duty cut
- Cancellation of business rates to 2022
- Extension of furlough to the end of June
If we can stick to this exit roadmap and receive a new level of financial support, then our pubs and our business can start to recover, allowing us to create jobs, invest in our business and support all those local suppliers as we always have done.
Socialising with a beer has been core to human existence for over 5,000 years and it is not going to cease now! We are incredibly proud that our pubs have remained at the heart of their communities throughout this crisis, working to provide vital services and support. After the unprecedented impact of the past year, the need for pubs to reopen and provide that social hub is more urgent than ever.
I would like to thank our team members and licensees who have worked so hard to keep the business going, and all those who have stood aside on furlough for such a long time.
These remain challenging times – for now - but this really feels like the endgame. We can now start to plan to reopen our pubs and hotels and welcome you back for a beer and a meal at the start of a Great British summer.
With my thanks and very best wishes,
Shepherd Neame Chief Executive