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Pubs set to lose crucial Xmas trade as Covid-19 tiers announced

Written by on 26/11/2020

Pubs across South Yorkshire could face financial “disaster” if the expected Tier 3 or Tier 2 status is imposed on the district when lockdown ends next week.

Sheffield’s Director of Public Health, Greg Fell, has already predicted the city will be hit by Tier 3 status, meaning all pubs would have to stay closed.

Even if some or all of the county is put in Tier 2 that would restrict drinking to those eating a meal, a restriction which dented trade when it was last in force.

Independent breweries have also been left with the conundrum of how to deal with the situation because it takes several weeks to brew beer from scratch, meaning if pubs are allowed to serve, it would be mid-December before beer was ready for sale.

In Sheffield, Abbeydale Brewery has turned its business over to an online shop, offering a click and collect service for retail customers which will now run until Christmas.

Abbeydale Brewery’s Dan Baxter

It is the second time they have relied on that service, using the same model during the first lockdown earlier this year.

Sales Director Dan Baxter said the busy Christmas sales period normally started in the last two weeks of November, meaning breweries and pubs were already missing out on one of the most lucrative periods of the year.

December meant fitting four weeks’ production into three weeks normally, he said, indicating the scale of lost income if pubs cannot open.

Most pubs were “in hibernation” he said, though one or two of their Sheffield customers had closed because of hardship caused by the lockdown.

“It is Tier 2 everyone is fearful of being in because you will not have access to any financial support from the government. You are kind of in limbo in Tier 2.”

Expanding their online shop, with collections from the brewery after their Rising Sun pub at Fulwood, which had been used as a collection point, was forced to close for the lockdown, had “scooped up some interest within the community” he said.

That was from people keen to visit the brewery, which is normally a trade-only outlet.

The prognosis from Chantry Brewery in Rotherham was more gloomy with director Mick Warburton predicting “disaster” for pubs if they could not take advantage of December sales.

“That is a really unfortunate situation for them but if pubs close it has a knock-on for the breweries because there are less to sell to,” he said.

“We think it is ridiculous, I am a member of a gym and I’ve had an email to say they are opening.

“Everything is opening apart from pubs. If it needs a shutdown, then let’s have a shutdown, but it seems ridiculous they are picking on pubs.

“The grants people have been given are not enough to cover rent, I don’t know how some pubs will survive.”

The brewery was having to try to second-guess government decisions, he said, and risked being left with beer which could not be sold if they chose the wrong option.

In Barnsley, Mathew Crisp runs Cucina bars in the town centre and Penistone and he warned keeping pubs shut had a wider impact on the economy.

“If I was going out for the evening, I might think about buying a new pair of jeans to wear, but if I’m not going out there’s no point in doing that,” he said.

Details of Abbeydale Brewery’s online shop are here https://www.abbeydalebrewery.co.uk/shop/ and Chantry, which also sells direct to the public, is here https://www.chantrybrewery.co.uk/one-hop-shop/