The boss of Marston’s has called for a rates extension and VAT cut to save the UK’s pubs.
The group’s chief executive Ralph Findlay said the government must extend the business rates holiday beyond its current end date in April.
Mr Findlay also pushed for a VAT cut when pubs are allowed to reopen after the end of coronavirus restrictions, adding that he did not expect this to be before March.
“The pub sector has been closed for much of the last nine months and remains in a very difficult position,” he said.
“Regrettably there have been casualties across the sector and it is vital that the government reviews urgently the opportunity to continue to support pubs as we reopen the economy in the coming weeks.
“Pubs are viable businesses which are part of the social fabric of Britain and which make a major contribution to the economy and the communities in which they serve.
“It is vital that they not only survive the short-term crisis but are supported in order to recover and flourish.
“Extending the business rates holiday and VAT cut for the rest of this year is a minimum requirement.”
Mr Findlay’s words came after the pub group reported its financial results for the 13 weeks to 2 January, a period badly affected by government restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
Many pubs were forced to close or were only allowed to sell takeaways during this period and 97% of Marston’s staff remain on the government’s furlough scheme.
Revenue across Marston’s 1,400 pubs was just £54m, compared to sales in 2019 of £1.17bn.
Looking to the future, Marston’s said it remains focused on developing the business and that when restrictions are lifted they expect the business will be “well-positioned” for strong demand.
The company said it will use £233m from a joint venture with Carlsberg UK to reduce debts and it will apply for the recently-announced government grants of up to £9,000 per property.
In December, Marston’s announced it would take over the running of around 150 pubs in Wales from Brains, in a deal that was expected to save up to 1,300 jobs.
But in October, the group warned that 2,150 jobs would be hit after the government tightened coronavirus restrictions.
Shares in Marston’s were down 0.1% early on Friday.