The threat to Britain’s traditional way of life caused by the restrictions has been underlined by the Countryside Alliance survey of pubs where landlords believe they are on the brink of shutting their doors for good. While 70 percent think they will be able to survive if restrictions are lifted by April when the vaccine should have been given to people in the most vulnerable groups that number drops to 37 percent if tough rules are kept in til June and a mere 21 percent if delayed until July.
The top issue for help appeared to be a demand for business rates and VAT on beer to be scrapped or reduced.
One respondent said: “We need positive help, vat to stay at 5% for at least 2 years, rates to be cut by 50 percent for the same length of time.”
Another warned: “This is causing severe mental health/isolation issues in rural areas.”
The survey of 80 rural pubs from all around the UK also reflects fury at what many landlords see as unfair rules being imposed on them by the government.
The response showed that 92 percent want to scrap the rule that customers have to order a substantial meal to be allowed to buy a drink when pubs reopen.
The impact was underlined with 57 percent reporting that regulars stopped coming to their pubs when the rule was in place and 82 percent saw a reduction in overall footfall.
This measure was imposed after November by ministers and hit the recovery in the pub trade between the second and third lockdowns.
Those pubs which are trying to stay in business by doing takeaway meals have also been hit by a rule that they are not allowed to do takeaway alcoholic drinks with 68 percent reporting “a negative impact”.
Over the summer Chancellor Rishi Sunak tried to help restaurants and pubs with the Eat out to Help out voucher scheme but landlords were divided over its impact with 48 percent supporting its reintroduction and 42 percent against.
Mo Metcalf-Fisher of the Countryside Alliance said it was right that the government’s main focus was on the vaccines, however, they need to look at how to ease lockdown once the jabs have been rolled.
He said: “Pubs are at the forefront of their communities up and down the countryside and their loss would be both catastrophic and irreversible.
“When the government address the matter of easing lockdown, pubs need a clear roadmap and sufficient, practical advance warning.
“Rules such as having to purchase substantial meals for example, need to be scrapped as this appears to be having an adverse effect on customer flow, something many pubs just can’t afford. Financial security in the event of prolonged periods of closure is also key to their survival.”