St Albans landlord’s plea: ‘We still need your help during these challenging times’

Landlord of The Boot pub, Sean Hughes, is leading the Save St Albans Pubs campaign.

Landlord of The Boot pub, Sean Hughes, is leading the Save St Albans Pubs campaign. - Credit: Archant

Sean Hughes, owner of Dylans, The Plough Sleapshyde and The Boot, is calling on all of you to do what you can to support local pubs, restaurants and cafés to survive the coronavirus crisis.

The Plough at Sleapshyde. Picture: Submitted by Tim Hughes

The Plough at Sleapshyde. Picture: Submitted by Tim Hughes - Credit: Archant

Back in 2016, when we started the Save St Albans Pubs campaign in response to the insane business rates increases we never expected to be in a situation where we would literally be fighting on behalf of all of our pubs due to COVID-19.

Sadly most pubs and restaurants with limited outside spaces are trading at 15-20 per cent of previous revenues. This is not sustainable and this is why we continue to lobby Government for additional support.

Having our hospitality industry grind to a complete halt for the first time in hundreds of years gave us all a glimpse of what it would be like to lose our treasured pubs, restaurants and cafés and the support from St Albans residents has been nothing short of incredible. We set up the “Stick One In Campaign” which had beers brewed by local breweries snapped up in record time from residents desperately wanting to support their local and we cannot thank you all enough for all you did.

Now that we have started to slowly reopen, we need your support by coming to our pubs, restaurants and cafés. St Albans businesses have done everything possible to make it safe for you to visit and although the bustling atmosphere may have gone for now, it gives you an opportunity to come back and support your local independents once more. Please help them by booking and sticking to their rules - it is in all of our interest to ensure we do not get a second spike or face a local lockdown.

The sign outside Dylans.

The sign outside Dylans. - Credit: Archant

Seeing our own pubs closed was devastating but like many others we had a home delivery set up for groceries and were able to get food to local residents who were shielding or unable to get a supermarket delivery. We thank you for your support back then and hope you enjoyed some of Drew’s cooking tips on our Instagram page.

Having a closed pub for a number of months has its challenges. Not only financially but also dealing with the mental health effect it has had on our team. This has been profound and re-opening safely with confidence with staff and customer safety was essential for us, as it is with all of the pubs in the area.

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The Save St Albans Pubs group has a very useful WhatsApp chat setup which has meant that the pub owners across the city have been able to support each other whilst trying to navigate constantly changing advice from Government.

We found a lot of High Street shops, cafés and restaurants also needed help and the result was a new association, the St Albans Independent Hospitality and Retail Association. This continues to work with the council and St Albans BID and even had requests from shops and pubs in other towns for support and advice.

Our MP Daisy Cooper continues to support the Save St Albans Pubs campaign and has helped throughout the crisis by being our voice in Parliament as we put pressure on Government to provide more help. Some arrived but sadly we need more.

The new 5% VAT rate will save a lot of businesses from going under but bearing in mind that most businesses still owe their last quarter VAT payment, so the reduction will mostly be used to ensure that they can pay that tax bill in January.

Save St Albans Pubs campaign has been calling for a 5% VAT rate for public houses from 2019 and it is good to see this rate amount is getting through to the Chancellor. We believe the 5% should be extended to alcohol for pubs specifically as many are “wet led” and they need to have the support as they often do not serve food and if they do it is very limited. We need to use this opportunity to keep pushing for this new VAT rate, something which transformed the hospitality industry in France many years ago.

So from your local pubs, restaurants and cafés, thank you again for continuing to support us and make sure that you use the new August £10 Eat Out and Help Out scheme at your local independent pub, restaurant and café.

The scheme runs Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays to get 50 per cent off food and non-alcoholic drinks.

There is no limit on the number of times you can use the offer so make sure you eat out to help out St Albans businesses!