Beer – it’s been around for some 13,000 years at least, and is the third most consumed drink in the world after water and tea. It’s also the backbone of the good old British pub, and there’s nothing Brits love more on a warm summers day than a nice cool crisp refreshing glass of beer in a pub garden. But with these pubs shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of barrels containing some 87 million pints (or 51 million litres) of beer have sat dormant, and unlike its cousins in the world of spirits or liquors, beer doesn’t last too long in storage, so it’s gone the only place it can – down the drain.
Pubs originally shut in the first national lockdown in the UK back in March 2020, but reopened for most of the summer, with some places staying open right until the end of the year when the regional “Tier” system was introduced in early Autumn. But with the second winter wave of the disease proving seriously dangerous to the NHS, another national lockdown was inevitable, and pubs have remained shut since the start of the year. The figure has been calculated by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) who say that around 87 million pints of beer have been wasted since the pandemic started last March, with a value of around £331 million. The BBPA is now highlighting the loss of revenue to the pub industry, and along with various other industry figures, they’re urging the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend VAT cut and Business Rates holiday for the hospitality industry ahead of the UK’s national yearly budget in March, as well as cutting beer duty (a tax on the sale of alcohol) when pubs do reopen.
Speaking of the crisis facing the industry, Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said –
” Our sector is in limbo. And at several points in the last 12 months pubs and breweries have effectively had to pour their revenues down the drain. We have no idea or clarity from Government on when we can re-open again. What we do know is if we cannot reopen in the near future, without further Government grant support and extensions to the job retention scheme, pubs and brewers will no longer have the cash left to survive and a wave of closures will be inevitable with jobs lost. Even when they can reopen, pubs and brewers are still likely to need Government support to help them kick-start their businesses again. With a Budget coming up in March, we are urging the Chancellor to continue to support our sector in what we hope are the final months of this crisis.”
Meanwhile the UK is undertaking a world-leading Covid-19 vaccination programme, with some 12 million adults having received a first dose, and therefore majority protection, in the first five weeks of 2021 alone, with current rates suggesting the majority of adults could receive their first dose by May. In the meantime, cases continue to fall even before the vaccine roll-out has put much of a dent in figures, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson looking to set out a “roadmap” out of lockdown on Feb 22, with an announcement on when pubs can reopen and in what format expected at this time.
We also estimate that at an average of a pint every 30 minutes, it would take someone nearly 10,000 years to drink 87 million pints to make up the shortfall, so when the great British pub does reopen, we best all get drinking to do our bit (in moderation of course…)
Image credit: Shutterstock / Goran Jakus