Small breweries are an example of Bristol’ fantastic food, drink and hospitality industries. They’ve also had a tough time. Today I went to meet representatives from some of Bristol’s small breweries at Wiper & True’s new brewery site in St Werburghs.
It was really good to catch up and discuss how COVID-19 is affecting their work. I’m concerned that there is not enough government support reaching the supply chains of the hospitality, leisure and events industry. We must fight for our small breweries that contribute so much to Bristol.
Following this meeting, I wrote to the Chancellor and the Culture Secretary:
Friday 2 October 2020
Dear Rishi and Oliver,
I write after holding a meeting with several of Bristol’s small brewers this afternoon. Wiper &True, Arbor Ales, Good Chemistry and Left-Handed Giant are all in Bristol West. Two of them own pubs as well and all rely on supplying the hospitality industry. Along with the other hospitality and events organisations in Bristol, they have put in an incredible effort into staying afloat during this time. But the recent government announcements have failed to offer support for the events, hospitality and nightlife sector has meant that these organisations and many others in their supply chain are not receiving any support. As a result, they are only able to function at considerably reduced capacity.
I am writing to understand what more can be done to support these industries. These businesses and organisations are a part of why Bristol is such a great city to live in but also a huge provider of jobs and economic prosperity in the long term.
These businesses and organisations were thriving before COVID-19. In the long term they will be viable and thriving again. The people involved understand the need for precautions to save lives and protect us all but they need you to recognise their viability and help them get through the crisis.
Such organisations contribute to and make up a large part of our cultural sector and are at risk of closure due to the government’s mismanagement of the crisis. It is not just the organisations which are at risk, but the thousands of staff who may lose their jobs. I would appreciate if you could please respond urgently to my points below.
Overlooking the live music, events, and festival sector in Chancellor’s winter economic plan
Bristol West has a large event, creative, entertainment, and nightlife sector and most of these businesses will receive no meaningful support from the new winter economic plan. This is especially concerning in the context of a future local lockdown. Added to this is the failure of the government to ensure an effective test, track, and trace system which means that some businesses are unable to open. Whilst strict social distancing measures remain in place to tackle the virus, events organisations cannot produce events, exhibitions or festivals and these firms will receive nothing in the new job support scheme.
Hospitality businesses in Bristol West tell me that they will struggle to pay an additional amount of their staff’s wages on top of the hours they have worked, as criteria in the new Job Support Scheme. This is due to such a huge fall in revenue. Staff are at real risk of being made redundant, despite the fact these are viable and were profitable businesses before the pandemic which means they would have jobs to return to once the crisis is over.
a. What financial support for hospitality businesses is being planned, in the event that they are prevented from opening due to local or sector specific lockdowns?
b. What support will you offer to businesses in these sectors which cannot open at all due to Covid? Will you offer sector-specific support to these industries?
c. How will you support businesses at risk of making people redundant to ensure that they can keep their jobs?
New government guidance around the pub, hospitality, and nightlife sector
Many businesses have adapted at a large expense to become Covid secure. For example, Team Love run The Love Inn, a popular venue in central Bristol. Their venue has remained closed but they have opened Breaking Bread, an open-air food and drinks venue with other businesses in Bristol which cannot open. It is in a purpose-built site that had the prevention of Covid-19 as a top priority. It has employed over 120 staff including chefs, site crew, food producers and contractors. The 10pm curfew has had a huge impact on their trade, especially as like many other hospitality businesses they have put great investment into making it work in very difficult times. This reduction of income will mean that businesses in Bristol West will not be able to survive.
a. What monitoring and data did you follow to ensure that 10pm would positively affect Covid transmission rates?
b. Will you consider reviewing the evidence for a 10pm curfew and the impact on the hospitality businesses, including their supply chains?
Schools are among the organisations in charge of creating their own risk assessment plan. Today, Good Chemistry brewery, who run Good Measure pub, said that table service in their particular building actually has a higher risk for customers and the staff, than ordering from the bar.
c. Why are there blanket rules for hospitality venues and why can’t hospitality venues run their own risk assessments to determine what is most safe and risk-free for their particular building?
Organisations in Bristol West feel that there was no consultation nor financial impact studies regarding these decisions.
d. Could you please provide me with any consultation with businesses in these sectors and financial impact studies about how these decisions were made?
Wet-led establishments and the supply chain
Pubs and other wet-led establishments did not benefit from the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme. They also do not benefit from the temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT for hospitality as it only includes food and non-alcoholic beverages. Small brewers also did not receive any support under the business rates relief, despite them being affected in the same way as pubs, bars and hospitality establishments.
a. Will you consider including pubs and other wet-led establishments to receive the temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT for hospitality?
b. Will you consider allowing small brewers and other organisations directly in the hospitality supply line business rates relief?
Businesses in the hospitality sector in Bristol feel as if they are being blamed for things they are not responsible for as we face a rise in Covid cases. In Bristol West, these businesses have been doing the right thing. They provide a regulated, licensed way of supervising consumption of alcohol, unlike off-license consumption which looks likely to take place in parks, streets and house parties if there are continued curfews. I appreciate that there may be evidence I am not aware of, so please do help me to understand if there is something I have overlooked.
I am asking that you please take these requests seriously. The events and festivals sector are already booking work in towards the end of 2021, but businesses and their workers must survive until then. They are part of our future economic growth. Please help me to help them to survive to do that.
I would be pleased to follow up my requests with any further information if required.
Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West