Pub chain pleads for an alcohol duty freeze

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A PUB chain has called on the government to freeze alcohol duty to help an industry which is being hit by rising costs, a lack of staff and customers with less money in their pockets.

Randalls managing director Gavin Reid said that a further increase in duty later this year would be passed on to the consumer through price rises.

Mr Reid said: ‘There has always been a passion from government to increase alcohol duty but we would ask them to freeze it when considering their budgets for the coming year. It is another cost which we would have to pass on to the consumer and would result in a rise in prices, which would only further discourage people from going out to eat and drink.

‘It is a knock-on effect and it would only compound the current situation.’

Mr Reid added that a freeze on duty would provide businesses with ‘some optimism’ and give them ‘one less thing to worry about’.

‘Obviously it’s very challenging at the moment and there is a direct correlation between increased costs and people having less money in their pockets to spend.

‘The first thing a family cut back on when they plan ahead to save money is going out for a meal and a drink,’ he said.

He added that there were numerous rising ‘hidden costs’, partly because of the war in Ukraine, such as the cost of wheat and carbon dioxide needed to make beer, plus rising fuel and energy costs, and the difficulty in attracting and retaining staff in the Island.

‘We’re at a very delicate moment. We’ve had two years of a torrid time with Covid and now face another challenge, so it’s down to how we react and adapt to it,’ he said.

In the UK, business leaders have warned the government that pub and brewing businesses are at risk of closure due to soaring energy bills and fewer customers with money to spend.

They have called on the government to intervene to prevent businesses from closing, jobs being lost and damage to communities.

Jersey Hospitality Association chief executive Claire Boscq said issues with recruiting staff, soaring costs and rising gas bills were making recovery from the pandemic ‘scary’.

She said: ‘We need the support of the government now and the whole industry to work together or we’ll be closing our doors and packing up. It’s a scary thought.’

She added: ‘A pub is at the centre of village life, so if we’re missing a pub we’re missing the place at the centre of the community. The hospitality industry is at the centre of everything in Jersey.

‘We’ve had two years of pandemic, reduced business and everything has gone up but there are fewer people in the pubs now. It’s awful.’

Aleks Nikitins, tenant landlord of The Vic in the Valley pub in St Peter, has shortened his opening hours and closed his kitchen due to the pressures of staff shortages and rising running costs.

He said: ‘Electricity and gas are going up and I don’t think I can survive just serving drinks. I’ve been running the place since May last year and it was a dream to have my own place, but physically there are not enough people in the Island to keep it running. I’m crossing my fingers and buying time at the moment.’

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