UK pubs warn of mass closures without state support on energy bills

·2-min read
COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease in Britain

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's pub and brewing industry on Tuesday called on the government to outline an urgent support package to prevent eye-watering increases in energy costs causing irreversible damage to the sector.

Last week the energy regulator said the price cap for millions of households in Britain would jump 80% to an average of 3,549 pounds ($4,164.75) a year from October, but with no cap for businesses some have reported facing hikes of more than 300% on their energy bills.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, members of the board of the British Beer and Pub Association called for a pause on levies, the introduction of an energy price cap for small businesses and additional grant support for pubs.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the frontrunner to replace Johnson in a leadership contest due to run until Sept. 5, has said she favours cutting taxes to help households and businesses cope with the soaring cost of energy.

"As more fixed price contracts come up for renewal this is only worsening. The time to act is now," the leaders of J.W Lees Brewery, Greene King, Admiral Taverns, St Austell Brewery, Drake and Morgan and Carlsberg Marstons said in the letter.

"Without swift and substantial intervention from government there is no doubt we will witness a huge number of pubs close their doors for good, leaving individuals without jobs during a cost-of-living crisis and communities without its social heartbeat."

The group said the rise in energy bills was hitting the industry just as it was starting to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Having survived the unprecedented challenges arising from the pandemic, pubs and breweries are once again faced with an existential threat because of circumstances beyond their control," Kevin Georgel, Chief Executive of St Austell Brewery said.

"The cost of energy threatens to cause mass business failure."

($1 = 0.8522 pounds)

(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman, Editing by Kylie MacLellan and William James)