Landlord's living in 'total uncertainty' over future of their pubs

Ady Smith warned it could already be too late for pubs to take advantage of any Christmas trade. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ady Smith warned it could already be too late for many pubs  - Credit: Gregg Brown

An Ipswich publican has said he and other landlords are living in 'total uncertainty' and fears their pubs could go the wall before Easter without further help.

Ady Smith has run the Dove Street Inn for almost 20 years – adding the Ipswich Gin Parlour over the road in recent years and making a sister pub of the Gladstone Arms, at Combs Ford, near Stowmarket.

But his venues are now closed and without more government support, Mr Smith believes his and other pubs could go to the wall before Easter.

The fight happened outside the Dove Street Inn Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Dove Street Inn  - Credit: Archant

"We're paying £4,000 a month in mortgage here," he said.  "On top of that, we had national insurance and pension contributions of £1,000 last month.

"We've used the bounce back loan, and when our savings are gone, it's only a matter of time before the business goes too."

Currently, hospitality businesses in Tiers 3 and 4 can only operate as takeaways, while in Tier 2 alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal – neither option suitable for thousands of 'wet-led' pubs like the Dove.

Instead Mr Smith has been forced to shut up shop and furlough all 19 members of his staff.

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He is now calling for more help from the Government to keep his business afloat - and he doesn't mean another Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, launched by the government following the first lockdown which he says benefitted "only big businesses".

He said: "Without more support, many pubs and restaurants will go under."

At the beginning of December, the Prime Minister announced an additional £1,000 Christmas grant for wet-led pubs – a handout Mr Smith said "won't go near" covering outgoings – while the Welsh government's grant system saw pubs get between £9,000 and £17,000, depending on rateable value, to cover a six-week period from December 4.

"We've got a lot of great customers, who have promised to be back as soon as we reopen," said Mr Smith, who chose not to reopen the Dove straight after lockdown lifted in the summer, due to three-quarters of his regular clientele being over 60 and at higher risk of contracting the virus.

"We opened in September and were just getting custom back when the 10pm curfew came in, which meant we had to stop serving at 9pm, despite 80% of our business coming in the evening."

Mr Smith, who took out the maximum bounce back loan available earlier in the year, has since had to repay deferred VAT, cover mortgages, still pay interest during the six-month mortgage holiday, and pump in savings to make the business more robust to the spread of Covid with PPE and signage. 

"We couldn't reopen in December (following the November lockdown) because we couldn't comply with the rules around serving food," he said.

By the time the Supreme Court rules on whether insurers should pay out for Covid-related business interruption claims, Mr Smith fears it will be too late for many in the trade, and that some pubs will simply not exist by the time the latest furlough scheme expires at the end of April 2021. 

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