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Covid: Pub industry warns it faces 'darkest of moments'

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Britain's major pub groups and brewers have pleaded with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to save an industry facing the "darkest of moments".

Executives at Fuller's, Carlsberg UK, Greene King, and Heineken UK are among more than 50 signatories of a letter warning of huge job losses.

They call on him to publish the evidence justifying the coronavirus restrictions on the industry.

A Downing Street spokesperson said they would respond in due course.

The letter says: "The pub is clearly being singled out for exceptionally harsh and unjustified treatment and unless your government changes course, and soon, huge portions of this most British of institutions will simply not be there come the spring.

"We believe it is in the interests of openness and transparency that any evidence showing pubs to be the source of outbreaks of the virus, and thereby justifying these extra restrictions, must be published immediately."

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The letter comes ahead of a planned announcement on Thursday that could see two-thirds of the country placed into tiers two or three when the current lockdown lifts next month.

Pubs in tier two areas will be able to serve drinks only to customers having a substantial meal, and those in tier three will not be able to open.

Pubs, and the hospitality industry generally, have been among the hardest-hit sectors during lockdown.

More than a third of hospitality firms say they have little or no confidence of surviving the next three months, according to data collected by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month.

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Other signatories to the letter include executives at Adnams, Marston's, Budweiser UK, Punch Pubs, Shepherd Neame and Young's.

They tell the PM they employ "hundreds of thousands of people and contribute billions of pounds of economic value to the UK economy - all of this is at risk today".

"Your Winter Plan, compounded by the Christmas announcement, have been greeted with utter dismay and incredulity by publicans up and down the country, and made the situation facing us exponentially worse," they say.

"How can it be that people mixing in unregulated private homes is deemed safer than gathering in limited numbers in larger, regulated and ultimately Covid-secure venues like pubs? There is no logic to this decision.

"It is clear that pubs are being scapegoated despite a lack of available evidence that they are any more responsible for outbreaks than other types of venue. We cannot stand idly by and allow these measures to destroy our businesses."

If restrictions cannot be relaxed, the pubs are demanding, among other things, financial support in line with the first lockdown, immediate changes to business rates, and a cut in the "punitively high" beer duty rate.

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