Following the devastating news that pubs and bars throughout the UK were to close indefinitely amid fears of the Covid-19 infection spreading, Licensed and Leisure specialists at Harris Lamb are working closely with pub groups and independent licensees to provide support in the coming weeks.

The Government announced on Friday evening that all nightclubs, theatres, pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, leisure centres and gyms were to close as soon as possible until further notice, with the majority closing their doors at the close of business.

Victoria Trafford, Director of Harris Lamb’s Licensed and Leisure department, said her team was now liaising with clients within the pub trade to provide support and advice.

Victoria Trafford, Director of Harris Lamb’s Licensed and Leisure department,

“The past 10 days have been horrendous. I think most of us, having seen how events were unfolding elsewhere in Europe as governments responded to the crisis, anticipated that this would happen, but desperately hoped that it wouldn’t come to it.

“Whilst the Government is not changing the Legislation that governs business rates, it is introducing specific measures for the financial year 2020/21 following the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus on the economy. Historic financial support remains in place, but, new guidelines apply.

“While an initial Retail Rates Relief discount of one third had been implemented by the Government for businesses with a Rateable Value of less than £51,000, this had been increased to 50 per cent for those under the threshold.

“Subsequently, this discount was increased to 100 per cent, the £51,000 threshold removed, and the terms expanded to include hospitality and leisure businesses, irrespective of their rateable value, in order to alleviate the impact that Covid-19 puts on businesses.

“This means eligible businesses will have zero liability for 12 months from 1 April 2020 until 31 March 2021. Eligible businesses will be issued with a new bill confirming zero rate liability for 12 months from April 2020,” she explained.

Victoria said that ratepayers occupying more than one property will be entitled to relief for each of their eligible properties.

“In addition, eligible retail, hospitality and leisure sector businesses in England, with a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000, will be allowed to apply for a government grant of £25,000 per business, and all active businesses within the those sectors are also eligible for “small business rate relief” or “rural rates relief”, while those with a rateable value of up to £15,000 will receive a one-off grant from the Government of £10,000 per business.

“The Welsh Government announced a similar support package for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in Wales, whereby a grant of £25,000 will be offered to businesses with a rateable value of above £12,001 and less than £51,000, and a £10,000 grant will be provided to all businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less,” she said.

Victoria said that while further measures are anticipated and specific details on the eligibility criteria, administration and the application process were yet to clarified, eligible businesses would be contacted by their local authority.

“The coming days and weeks will see further updates and reassurances regarding the support available during these unprecedented times, and my team and I are working with our portfolio of pub and leisure clients to provide as much support and guidance as we possibly can. We are in daily contact with the British Institute of Innkeeping to keep them informed of the queries we receive and they have already issued links to all members regarding the measures available to alleviate some financial hardship at this time,  and set staff members minds at ease over wages in the coming weeks,” she said.

The Licensed and Leisure team can be contacted at pubrating@harrislamb.com or on 0115 947 6236.