Entertainment chief attacks lockdown plans

“State mistrust of hospitality will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds” – claim.

The leader of the largest hospitality district outside of London has shared his frustration at the government “continuing to ignore the safety of pubs and bars” in its plans to emerge from lockdown.

Mike Olley, the general manager of Westside Business Improvement District in Birmingham, said that the UK will lose hundreds of millions of pounds in taxes by not fully reopening hospitality venues at the same time as non-essential shops.

Mr Olley, whose BID looks after Birmingham’s ‘golden mile’ of bars, restaurants and nightclubs in and around Broad Street, said: “At last, we have a future plan to shake off Corona. Unfortunately, it ignores the blisteringly overwhelming evidence that pubs are incredibly safe places to go into.

“It ignores that fact that even a small local boozer is costing thousands a month to keep closed. Thousands a month to the person who owns and operates it and many more thousands to us the taxpayer on top to keep it closed. Pubs are COVID-19 safe environments, yet despite that, non-essential shops get to open before the local pub. Why?”

He explained that all venues in his district had invested tens of thousands of pounds on COVID-19 safety training, protocols, sanitizing equipment, signage and pathways.

He said: “Landlords and landladies are licensed by government. The licence is taken very seriously. If you commit a crime not related to the licensing trade, you can lose your liquor licence. If you turn out to be a bad publican, you will probably lose your liquor license. Lose that and your livelihood is over. That’s how heavily regulated pubs are. It’s a significant threat over the head of any landlord or landlady. And I can tell you they take their responsibilities very seriously indeed.

“I’m not saying shopkeepers are not as serious. [They are] as concerned about labels on the shelves facing the right way as [they are] about hygiene and stock rotation. Therefore, why not put these two professions on a par? Why keep pubs closed, except for outdoor drinking, and yet shops can open, be they outside or indoors? I calculate that the taxation paid in from Westside is a quarter of a billion pounds every year. So roughly speaking, to deprive the reopening of our economy for a month is going to cost more than £20 million in lost taxes.

“The government not trusting publicans as they trust shopkeepers will cost us hundreds of millions of pounds across the country. Who knows, maybe billions.”

Mr Olley, who shared his views via his latest Olley’s Oracles blog on Westside BID’s website, added: “It’s sad to know that this is all because the government trusts us to go shopping, but they don’t trust us to have a quiet drink.”