Covid-19 has brought countless challenges for us as individuals and for many businesses and has been particularly tough on the hospitality sector. Nobody could have predicted a year that saw pubs closing their doors completely, only to reopen with the addition of hand sanitiser stations, social distancing, collecting our customers’ data to enable track and trace and even no drinks without food and a curfew at some points.

It has been a turbulent and worrying time for our Pub Partners. However, nobody can deny that those running our leased and tenanted pubs have continued to go above and beyond to support their communities across multiple lockdowns. We could not be prouder of the work that our partners have undertaken to make sure their communities remain supported, with partners doing everything from aiding the vulnerable with food deliveries to giving a helping hand with shopping or collecting a prescription.

Alongside all this support for others, our partners and their teams had the pressure of not knowing what the next restriction level would be or when they might pull their next pint. Moreover, how would they financially support their livelihood with ongoing costs and stock unable to be used.

In March 2021, there was further financial support for the hospitality industry announced by governments across the UK. The grants varied for businesses in England, Scotland, and Wales. In early 2020, grants had also been made available to some businesses and loans (with long repayment options) were announced by the UK government, but these would not be a long-lasting solution for our partners.

For most of the pandemic, our partners have received between 40% and 90% rent concessions - dependent on level of restrictions in their area. They have also had beer that had gone out of date - while the pub was closed - replaced for free, £250 of free PPE provided for every pub, membership of the British Institute of Innkeeping funded by Greene King and mental health and well-being support through our own teams and through the Licensed Trade Charity. We felt all this support and more was vital to ensure our partners had the foundations they needed to be able to reopen with confidence and serve their communities as only Greene King partners know how!

What did the financial support look like for tied tenants?

After the March 2020 lockdown, we launched a partner support fund that aimed to target those pubs most in need as there was a disparity between those that had received a £25,000 grant from the government to pay fixed costs like rent, and others which received nothing. By the middle of June 2020, however, with no pubs yet able to reopen, any grants received would have been used and so we switched to an automatic 90% rent concession for all tied tenants, which continued for four weeks after they were able to reopen from July 2020.

Rent concessions continued at varying levels depending on trading but never went below 40% in 2020. When various lockdowns were introduced at different times across England, Scotland, and Wales in the autumn, rent concessions returned to 90% and these continued during the winter when severe restrictions were in place that either kept pubs closed or closed in all but name.

The 90% rent concessions continued for all pubs in Tiers 2-4 in England and 2-4 in Scotland during the winter and were then extended when the national lockdown began in January 2021.

Following the announcement that pub gardens could reopen in England from 12 April and in Scotland and Wales from 26 April, we have further signaled our intention to support our partners by extending the 90% rent concession until further notice, so partners will still benefit from the 90% rent concession whether they can reopen outdoors in April or not.

With so many things ‘up in the air’, consistent communication was the key success for us. Maintaining clear communication allowed for our partners to fully understand the restrictions and as a company, we would also begin to understand the financial requirements of those in different areas of the country – with the devolved nations all working under different timelines and restrictions.

It is all about the future now…

At Greene King, our focus now is on the future. We look forward to 17 May when pubs can open inside, and we cannot wait to see pubs open fully once again from 21 June with the cheeky banter at the bar and families enjoying delicious meals at their favourite local. We have worked so hard to support our partners in these difficult times. Having been recognised at The Publican Awards as the best tenanted/ leased pub company of 2021, we would not be an award-winning pub company if not for our incredible partners going above and beyond for their communities – the safe opening of their pubs (with Covid-19 safety measures) is all that is on their mind.

As soon as the government confirms we can reopen indoors, we will have our pubs ready to greet every customer with a smile and deliver the service they have missed for so long. It is time to look forward to hearing laughter, chatter, and clinking plates and glasses once again. It may be a bumpy ride for another few months, but we stand side by side as one team to make sure wherever there is a Greene King Pub Partners pub, it is a pub the local community can enjoy and love.