'I fear there will be casualties' says Sunderland and South Tyneside pubs' champion

The local chairman of an organisation dedicated to promoting good beer has spoken of the “nightmare” facing pubs amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis and admits: “I fear there will be casualties.”

Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 5:51 pm

Michael Wynne, the chairman of the Sunderland and South Tyneside branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), is worried that landlords may start calling last orders for good as they struggle to cope with reduced footfall following a raft of government restrictions.

Mr Wynne said: "I am not aware of any that have shut permanently but there are a number which are reducing their opening hours because there is no footfall.

Michael Wynne, the chairman of the Sunderland and South Tyneside branch of Camra, fears pubs will begin to close permanently across the area if the current coronavirus restrictions continue.

"If the Government is going to come down on the licensing trade on the back of some pretty shaky science then I fear there will be a lot of casualties if this continues.

"There will be places that are too far in a hole that they are never going to dig themselves out of.

"Some of the big pub companies, for instance, they have not written the rents off that publicans pay. They have deferred them.

"So how many people will walk away and who will step in to take over? It is a nightmare.

"You might be alright if you are food led, and can attract families, but if you are wet led it is a different game.”

A recent survey of branch members across Sunderland and South Tyneside indicated that nearly nearly a quarter – 23.5% – of the 115 respondents were paying fewer visits to pubs than before the crisis with another 18.3% not visiting them at all for covid-related reasons.

Mr Wynne, who has felt safe during his handful of visits to pubs since they reopened in July, said: “It is not about the drink. It is the craic with friends and the company that I and a lot of people miss.”

Camra wrote to the Government after pubs after the 10pm curfew was introduced as part of the area's local lockdown last month.

National chairman Nik Antona called for a new support package to help both pubs and staff, adding: “This is the only way to avoid permanent pub closures and further job losses."

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