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Shepherd Neame boss outraged by ban on takeaway beer from pubs as he questions Government's lockdown decision-making

One of the country's biggest pub operators has been left outraged due to the government's handling of the impending second lockdown.

Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Faversham brewer Shepherd Neame, has blasted No.10's decision-making as "absolutely ludicrous" and fears the knock-on effect for the pub industry will be devastating.

Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame
Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame

"The sector has zero trust in the Government as this is the fourth change of strategy in six weeks," he said.

"Every time we have to pivot our business and rethink what we're doing.

"I find it bizarre that schools and universities are staying open when they are one of the principle sources of transmission. And then hospitality and non-essential, where there is virtually no transmission, gets shut down.

"There was an industry survey which revealed from 250 million customer interactions, there were 1,700 infections. That works out as 0.0003% infection rate. The Government has issued no evidence to support shutting the industry."

Serving of takeaway beer was credited as providing a "lifeline" for struggling pubs during the first lockdown, with many making ends meet on the back of sales.

"It's an absolute outrage these sort things can be thrown in without any form of flicker or murmur..."

But under the new regulations, pubs and bars will not be able to serve any form of alcohol to takeaway - robbing the sector of essentially potential income.

Mr Neame, whose business runs 320 pubs across the south east, has been left incensed by the introduction of the new rule.

"It's absolutely ludicrous," he said. "Licensees are suddenly left with beer in their cellar that will go down the drain - it will be vast amounts and it's a complex process to sort.

"We signed up to give away a bit of our freedom to support the NHS, which is a worthy cause, but we did not sign up for some form of back door social reengineering.

"I think it's an absolute front to democracy and an absolute outrage that these sort things can be thrown in without any form of flicker or murmur.

Shepherd Neame runs dozens of pubs across Kent
Shepherd Neame runs dozens of pubs across Kent

"Every day this goes on, it's tougher and tougher to avoid job losses.

"But the light at the end of the tunnel is that the Great British want their pubs. My faith is in our customers and they want us to come back.

"In spite of having a Government with no strategy, idea, ability or exit plan, the public will eventually help us through it when we're back."

Food can however still be sold for takeaway service.

One business which will be trying to making the most of the limited offering is the Maidens Head in Wincheap, Canterbury.

Landlord Jeremy Stirling, who says business was going well before the PM's announcement, said: "Our takeaways will be starting up immediately as we set up the catering unit outside.

"It's obviously far from ideal for business but I'm not ranting and raving about being forced to shut. The virus is spreading so it's got to be done.

"We're in a good place and have money saved over so it's not all doom and gloom for us."

Jeremy Stirling of the Maidens Head
Jeremy Stirling of the Maidens Head

In contrast, fish, chips and ice cream trader Mackaris, in Herne Bay, will be "going into full hibernation" for four weeks as it attempts save on costs.

Hassan Hassan, who runs the business, said: "We've learnt from the first lockdown and this time we'll probably close down fully. We made a loss running takeaways and we've got to be extremely careful.

"Making a profit from it is very difficult - we got steady custom but we couldn't cover the expenses.

"It's a case of battening down the hatches and going into hibernation for a month. We need to keep the reserves for the winter.

"This lockdown is different and more difficult than March. We're starting this one a weaker position so we really need to take precautions.

Hassan Hassan says the second lockdown will be tougher for business than the first
Hassan Hassan says the second lockdown will be tougher for business than the first

"It's health before wealth and everyone is in the same boat. But this is a kick in the balls as we've done so much to be Covid safe and have kept all of our staff on.

"Is this just kicking the problem further down the street for another time?"

Eddie Sargeant, who runs the Old Coach and Horses pub in Harbledown and Teatros bar in the city, says the lockdown is "frightening" for his businesses.

"It's an absolute shocker for us," he said.

"The amount of turnover I've lost, and will still lose, is really frightening.

"This time of the year is usually the best for trade and the time when we make most money. So it's very bad news - although it definitely does need to happen.

"I hope we can get sufficient support as just because we're shut, it doesn't mean we stop paying money. Bills from the weeks just gone roll over and they still need paying.

Eddie Sargeant
Eddie Sargeant

"Last week we'd taken twice as much money as the one before, so we were just starting to pick things up again. And then 'bang', we get hit with this.

"I'm sure the lockdown will go on longer than a month - it'll be a terrible time but I'll find a way to definitely get through to the other side."

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