Obviously, the Forum has been extremely busy during this time of turmoil for all businesses particularly the smaller ones that we represent and make up most of our membership.
A number of these are rural businesses but one of the Forum of Private business real concerns has come from our members in the Hospitality industries who will need help if people are being told not to use them for an extended period which looks likely. Following the prime ministers briefing on the 20th March and his call not to visit pubs, restaurants and bars, many small pubs, particularly rural tenanted pubs will be put under extreme pressure and in some cases go out of business. We have been warning the government over the past 4 years, through the Forums, Protect your Pub campaign, about the perilous state of the tenanted pub sector, particularly those under the management of the 6 big pub companies and we believe that many will end up closing, in some cases permanently.
Yesterday we called on the big six pub companies to give their tenants a rent holiday to help them through the crisis, as yet we have received no response, other than Admiral Taverns who have done the right thing and cancelled rent for a period of time. This needs quick action from the rest of the big six who have been taking far more from their tenanted estates than they have put in for years. The lack of positive action from these property owning landlords, the government and the pubs code adjudicator are the reasons the tenanted pub sector is in such a perilous state and its time that all three did something to help these small businesses in this time of crisis.
On the other hand, it has been great to see many of the traditional local family brewers treating their tenants far better and cancelling debt as they need their pubs as the shop window for their brands and their products, so they need to be back up and trading quickly after the lock down is lifted.
But there is a potential problem in rural areas, where after the lock down, with empty pubs and the pub owning businesses in a difficult financial position they may chose to sell assets and the only assets they have are the properties, the pubs! With that in mind local rural communities need to be aware of this, watch out for changes, pubs getting boarded up, a lack of investment, landlords not being replaced or being removed. We need the pubs to carry on as pubs, for them to become free houses bought by the community or individuals, but not to be knocked down and redeveloped. There are protections in place and if you need more information please contact the Forum at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can provide you with a copy of the CAMRA/Forum guide to protecting your local pub and also join the Forums protect your pub campaign, just go to the Forum website www.fpb.org, click on the campaigns header, then click on Protect Your Pub and when its page pops up, the sign up is on the right hand side. It is easy and it will really help.