Speed up grant payments before pubs close for good, pleads Brighton landlord

Pubs “face going to the wall” if they have to wait much longer to receive grants that they were promised.

Philip Rees, who runs the Queen Victoria, in Rottingdean, told councillors that delays in paying the grants could have a “catastrophic impact on Brighton’s economy and its ability to sell itself as a tourist destination”.

Mr Rees asked Brighton and Hove City Council what it was doing to prioritise urgently needed payments at a virtual meeting of the full council yesterday (Thursday 28 January).

The grants were promised by the government after ministers ordered all pubs to close again even though many had spent considerable sums complying with rules intended to make them covid-safe.

Green councillor Tom Druitt said that the council was paying grants as quickly as possible while adapting to the six different business grant schemes and various rule changes since the pandemic began.

As of Tuesday (26 January), he said that 2,550 businesses had received “local restriction support grants” for businesses forced to close because of coronavirus-related restrictions.

A further 516 businesses had received discretionary payments worth a total of £5.1 million to help make up for lost income during the lockdown from Thursday 5 November to Tuesday 1 December.

And 2,335 businesses received their share of a £3.9 million pot on Thursday 14 January, he said.

The payments were for the four weeks from Saturday 26 December to Friday 22 January when Brighton and Hove was placed into “tier 4” followed by the latest national lockdown.

Councillor Druitt said that 2,329 businesses received grants worth a total of £3.4 million on Thursday 21 January.

These were for the period from Saturday 23 January to Monday 15 February when the government is due to review the current lockdown.

Businesses forced to close under lockdown rules received “closed business reduction payments” of £4,000, £6,000 or £9,000 depending on their size.

He said that in Brighton and Hove the council had paid £12.5 million to more than 2,400 businesses.

Councillor Tom Druitt

Councillor Druitt said: “I want to acknowledge just how important the hospitality sector is to Brighton’s economy.

“It is part of the fabric of what makes our city a great place to live and visit – and is part of our diverse and vibrant economy and a significant creator of jobs.

“I am also very conscious of how challenging the last year has been as the sector has responded to various national lockdowns and other restrictions as a result of the pandemic.”

He said that most hospitality businesses that applied for support had received payments, with priority given to the “local restriction support grant” because it had the largest number of recipients and paid out the most.

About 160 “wet-led pubs” – where food sales account for less than half the income – are also due to receive an extra £1,000 “Christmas support payment” and these were still being assessed.

The Regency ward councillor added: “On a personal note, I’d like to add that I run a business too and understand how difficult it is for businesses at the moment.

“As a ward councillor, I am also in regular contact with a number of businesses who are struggling.”

He said that he had met with business leaders and the Green council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty to look at ways to support businesses further.

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