The UK’s biggest pub landlord must give tenants rent holidays to avoid wide-scale permanent closures once lockdown is lifted, according to a cross-party group of MPs.
Politicians have written to the chief executive of Ei Pubs, which is part of Stonegate’s 4,500 pubs across the country, demanding he follow the lead of rivals including Adnams and Admiral Taverns which have announced rent-free periods.
The letter from 60 MPs comes as Stonegate said it has launched a multi-million support package for publicans, including a three-month rent credit. It will see rent still being paid by pubs that receive Government bailouts, although they will be entitled to credits against future beer purchases.
Pubs not receiving certain Government support will get a rent credit, which essentially means they do not pay rent for three months – allowing Stonegate bosses to avoid calling it a “rent-free period”.
We are dismayed that Ei Pub Company has not made any public undertaking to provide a rent-free period to its tenants and is instead simply deferring the rent to be paid off after the pandemic endsCross-party MPs letter to Stonegate
Organised by Tory MPs Alicia Kearns and Anthony Browne, and Labour MP Stella Creasy, the politicians wrote: “The current pandemic represents perhaps the greatest threat the pub industry has ever faced. We write as Members of Parliament deeply concerned about the future of pubs in our constituencies.
“These worries have been alleviated somewhat in recent weeks by Government support measures and the announcements of Adnams, Everards, Admiral Taverns, Timothy Taylor’s, Hall and Woodhouse, Robinson’s, Wadworth’s, and Palmer’s Brewery, among others, that they will be offering rent-free periods for their pubs during the Covid-19 lockdown.
“However, we are dismayed that Ei Pub Company has not made any public undertaking to provide a rent-free period to its tenants and is instead simply deferring the rent to be paid off after the pandemic ends.”
It is understood that the group of MPs had been in discussions with Stonegate prior to publication of the letter, in an attempt to put pressure on bosses to offer more support.
Stonegate had previously offered tenants a rent deferral and sources were keen to stress the rent payments, which will be offset by credit for beer, will not need to be paid for immediately. A planned price rise in May has also been paused.
The credit will be given depending on the size of the pub and whether they are entitled to any Government and local authority coronavirus grants.
Those receiving a grant of between £10,000 and £25,000 will get trade credits of either 75% or 50% of the value of three months’ rent, Stonegate added.
Nick Light, managing director of Ei Publican Partnerships, pointed out that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has stipulated the grants “are aimed at providing financial relief towards fixed costs, including rent”.
He added: “It is vital to us that our pubs and our publicans are in a position to trade successfully when pubs are allowed to reopen.
“The rent support and trade credit initiatives are intended to provide our publicans with a strong platform to do so and to help relieve some of the financial pressure required to restock and restart.”
The Government has said pubs could potentially reopen in July with strict social distancing measures, although this will depend on the success of easing lockdown restrictions.