York publican and industry campaigner Paul Crossman says the sector needs support and fast – otherwise many pubs will close for good.
The hike in energy costs is already pushing many to the brink, says Paul, who runs three pubs in York – the Swan Inn, Slip Inn and Volunteer Arms.
His pubs are yet to be affected as they have a period left on a fixed price energy contract. But others are being hit by 300% rises now, Paul told YorkMix.
And that is not the worst of it.
“We’re already seeing hospitality businesses unable to get a new contract, because they’re regarded as being so high risk by the the energy supply companies now that they are literally asking for a £10,000 deposit upfront to even sign somebody up for a deal.
“If faced with that, anyone who’s got a marginal situation already is simply going to walk away from the from the business.”
Paul is chair of the national Campaign For Pubs, which has written to both candidates hoping to be Prime Minister urging a package of support to save the licensed trade.
“There are pubs that are already closing because they’ve been handed new energy bills,” he said.
“And we’re already seeing increases of 300% plus on energy bills, because there is no cap for commercial energy.”
In York, “I’m pretty sure we will see some pubs closing pretty quickly at this rate unless something is done.”
A bridge too far
Many in the industry, battered by Covid-19, have racked up high debts that they haven’t had chance to pay off.
“On top of everything else that’s happened over the last couple of years, this energy crisis is just a bridge too far for a lot of people.”
So what can be done? The Campaign for Pubs wants an immediate cap on commercial energy prices.
Darren Jones, the Labour chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in the House of Commons, “said that he can’t see any alternative to the government giving Covid-style grants to businesses to help them with their energy costs, at least in the short term,” said Paul.
“So there’s a lot of options on the table. And we want the government to consider everything.”
If they let pubs go to the wall now, it will mean all the money spent to keep them afloat during Covid will have been wasted.
Pubs with kitchens and restaurants are high energy users, he points out. And they are facing a “double whammy” as customers’ own rising bills could mean they can’t afford to go out for food and drink.
That’s why the government has to intervene, he said. “They can’t just allow that to go forward because I don’t think there’d be many businesses left.”