All Fuller’s pubs are to close by Monday. Fuller’s has 204 pubs in the Midlands and South of England, with the highest concentration – 136 – in London.
In Chiswick they are: George IV, The PIlot, The Old Packhorse, Bell & Crown, One Over the Ait and the Mawson’s Arms beside the Griffin brewery. The brewery, now owned by Asahi, has already closed its shop and stopped tours of the site.
Simon Emeny, Chief Executive of Fuller, Smith & Turner, today said:
“The time has come to make the toughest of decisions and we have started the process of temporarily closing our entire Managed Pubs and Hotels estate. By Monday, all sites will be closed until further notice.
“As we navigate these difficult times, we promise our teams that we will be fair to our people, while protecting our business for the long term. We do not know how long these measures will last, but when the time comes our pubs, and the teams in those pubs, will be ready, waiting and delighted to serve our customers and our communities.”
The hospitality industry is waiting to hear from the Chancellor tonight details of what further financial help the Government will give them, so Fuller’s isn’t able to say yet whether there will be immediate redundancies as a result.
On Monday Boris Johnson announced that people should “avoid pubs, clubs and theatres.” Chief Executive of Fuller, Smith & Turner, Simon Emeny, reacted angrily, saying:
“The Prime Minister’s advice (on Monday) puts us in an absolutely impossible situation. His reckless attitude is effectively forcing pubs to close without a clear instruction to do so and with no financial support, putting jobs and pubs at risk forever. In many cases, these pubs may never reopen and, in the immediate future, many people will be left without an income to live off.
“As an industry, we need a comprehensive package of financial measures to see us through these unprecedented times – especially to prevent those businesses with low cash reserves from terminal closure. These measures should include a payment holiday on Business Rates, HMRC payments and VAT.
Decision not unexpected
On Tuesday Mr Emeny said: “In light of the ambiguity of Mr Johnson’s statement, at Fuller’s we are currently reviewing all of our pubs on a site by site basis to decide whether to remain open or not”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday: “For those venues which do have a policy that covers pandemics – the government action is sufficient to allow them to make claims.”
But the Association of British Insurers quickly hit back with their own advice:
“The vast majority of firms won’t have purchased cover that will enable them to claim on their insurance for their business being closed by the Coronavirus. Standard business interruption cover… does not include forced closure by authorities.”
Their statement went on to say that while some companies might have purchased an extension to cover insurance for closure due to infectious diseases, any payments “will depend on the precise nature of the cover they have purchased.” As a new disease, Coronavirus is highly unlikely to be included in general insurance.
Further to last week’s budget, the Government has now offered all businesses in the hospitality industry a business rates holiday, irrespective of their rateable value. Acknowledging on Tuesday that some sectors were facing “particularly acute challenges”, the Chancellor said the government would do “whatever it takes” to deal with Covid-19 outbreak.
“I am also extending today the business rates holiday to all businesses in those sectors irrespective of their rateable value. That means every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant and any other businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector will pay no business rates whatsoever for 12 months”.
Grants and loans
In the same address he said there would be cash available to struggling businesses in the hospitality industry:
“I announced last week that for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £51,000, they will pay no business rates this year. Today, I can go further and provide those businesses in those sectors with an additional cash grant of up to £25,000 per business to help bridge through this period”.
The industry is waiting to find out what further help the Chancellor has in mind. It is widely expected that pubs across London will be ordered to shut from tonight.