HOSPITALITY businesses in the North-East and North Yorkshire have spoken out after the announcement of a top up support grant from government, saying it is welcome but does not go far enough.

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will get a one-off grant worth up to £9,000, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced yesterday, December 5.

The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit industries, able to only offer takeaway and delivery services through much of the pandemic or not trade at all.

But new coronavirus restrictions have banned alcohol from being sold with any other takeaway service from pubs and restaurants.

Business owners in the region says the grant is a "plaster" and does not cover rent, bills and wages while the ban on takeaway pints will “destroy” pubs.

Simon Leadbetter, who owns The Mowden Pub in Darlington, called for more permanent support rather than a top-up.

He added: “What we have now does not cover costs. It needs to be more.”

Dave Oakey, owner of the Coach House Inn, North Yorkshire, warned “a key part of our national heritage is on the line”.

The Rosedale pub owner, who said furlough and rate relief have helped considerably, said: "The impact of short notice closures and the many changes in the regulations that pubs have had to comply with have ensured losses go well beyond just covering staff wages and running costs.

“The Coach House Inn is in a remote area of the North York Moors and whilst we are very dependent on tourism, like most rural pubs we are also very much a social hub for our community.

“The traditional village pub was already under extreme financial pressures before all this, many will just not survive. Vital community assets and a key part of our national heritage is on the line.”

Paul Smith, who owns The Schooner and The Three Tuns in Gateshead, said the one-off grant is “welcome” but added it does not go far enough.

He said: “When the first lockdown happened we got a £25,000 grant. This was realistic, it covered all of our bills and helped us with the costs of reopening in a Covid-safe way.

“We have outgoings of about £850 a week when we are closed. While the grant is welcome, it is not near enough.

“We just took an order for £3,000 and, if lockdown goes on for too long, that will all have to go down the sink. That order was placed in good faith but the fact we can’t do takeaways or click and collect during this lockdown is helping to destroy the industry."

Mr Smith, who has utilised the furlough scheme but is topping up his employee’s wages, added: “Pubs are being unfairly penalised when we have done nothing wrong.

“The big crime is the supermarkets, they can do what the want. They are selling the same beer as us and making a massive profit. There are no Covid annoucements in supermarkets, no one washing down trolleys, no arrows on the floor.

“Anyone who wants to see pubs survive should think about where they are buying their alcohol from. Support your local pub.”

Two of Mr Smith’s friends have lost their pubs during the pandemic, a fate he now fears, with one now claiming Universal Credit and another working as a delivery driver.

Mr Smith said: “One of them was in the business 21 years and had a very successful pub but there just wasn’t enough support to keep going.

“We’re an adaptable industry, but they [the Government] just seem to be finding ways to destroy us for no reason.”

Trade organisation the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) chairman Nik Antona reiterated this concern, saying takeaways were a “real lifeline” during the pandemic and a ban will be the “death knell for many pubs”.

Mr Antona added: “This will once again provide an unfair advantage to supermarkets and off-licences that don’t face similar restrictions.

“It is clear now more than ever that the Government must introduce a new, long-term and sector-specific financial support package to help these businesses survive the coming months.

“While one-off grant support is welcome, it is nowhere near enough to cover the haemorrhaging costs for pubs and breweries that don’t see any end in sight.”

The Campaign for Pubs said current levels of support are “wholly inadequate”, with pubs having already lost months of trade, many in debt and some having already closed.

Dawn Hopkins, vice chair of the organisation, which has been campaigning for additional support throughout the pandemic, said: “The announcement will give some hope to publicans who have been left teetering on the edge with the lack of financial support given up until now, but hope isn’t enough to keep our pubs from closing for good.

“The reality is the financial support given has not been good enough and has not been distributed efficiently, with some publicans still waiting for grant payments promised for November.

“If the government truly cares about our pubs, about us opening our doors and trading again when we can, then it needs to listen and act now.”

Chris Soley, director and general manager of Hartlepool-based Camerons Brewery, hit out at the government for “sticking a plaster” on the problem.

He said: “It’s a welcome additional support at a time of crisis but we need substantially greater assurances of financial measures to help our beleaguered industry through to recovery.

“Make no mistake, this is just a sticking plaster to avoid immediate mass business failures and redundancies.

“By the end of March we will have been effectively shut down for a year and despite the grants, furlough, rates reduction and VAT cut on food, we have continued to sustain heavy losses and haemorrhage cash.

“Without further long term support to help us recover for years to come, all the government’s short term financial interventions will be wasted. We have burdened our businesses with huge debts to avoid failure and will need to find a way to pay this debt back.”

Mr Soley is calling for extensions of the business rates holidays for pubs and breweries through 2021 and into 2022, extension of the 5 per cent VAT on both food and alcoholic beverages and a reduction in beer duty.

The Campaign for Pubs, with the support of ‘The Pub Landlord‘ Al Murray, is calling for an urgent support package including these measures, a closure grant increased to at least £1000 a week and a statutory rent code.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has not ruled out further support for businesses and workers struggling due to the current national lockdowns.

“These measures need to be announced very soon so that we can start to formulate our economic recovery plans and demonstrate a way out to our funders,” Mr Soley added.