Loans could offer lifeline to our pubs

LANDLORDS in Suffolk today welcomed a government lifeline for struggling pubs - but there were fears it could also be the “final nail in the coffin”.

LANDLORDS in Suffolk today welcomed a government lifeline for struggling pubs - but there were fears it could also be the “final nail in the coffin”.

Licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe has promised to guarantee bank loans for pubs locked into long-term contracts with breweries.

These so-called tied pubs can now apply for a slice of �1.3billion under the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme.

One such landlord is Kevin Watkins, who runs the Westerfield Railway in Westerfield and The Belstead Arms in Ipswich.


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He recently ploughed �100,000 into his business after re-mortgaging his house and has struck a deal with his bank to ease repayments from the business.

He thinks the new government deal could lend a hand to the industry, but he is not considering another loan at present.

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Mr Watkins, who has 13 years left on his lease at The Belstead Arms, said: “It will help in the short-term only if the economy improves.

“If the trade doesn't take an upward trend, having another loan will be the final nail in the coffin for pubs.”

Shaun De Silva, president of Barwatch and landlord of The Brewers Arms in Ipswich's Orford Street, is not tied into his contract, but said the cash aid could be a blessing for those who are.

He said: “We are all in trouble, but for pubs who can't get out of their leases they would be more than grateful for help from their banks to help them through.”

Free-of-tie pubs - those with short-term agreements or free houses - have been eligible for the scheme since January.

Under the scheme, the government will guarantee 75 per cent of loans while the banks cover the remaining 25pc.

Greg Mulholland MP, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, has welcomed the initiative but raised concerns that locals might find it hard to get their hands on the cash.

He said: “The thought that any local pub might close because they are not getting help from the banks is simply unacceptable.”

Should pubs get more help from banks? Are you a landlord who wants a loan? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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