CAMRA calls for financial support and emergency licensing law changes to help NI’s pubs and brewers

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The Campaign for Real Ale has urged the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to take action to save pubs and brewers from extinction as many stay closed for St Patrick’s Day. 

CAMRA Northern Ireland has written to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister urging them to take action to help pubs, brewers and cider makers with the financial impact of the coronavirus. 

The consumer group is asking for financial help with staff wages, business rates and other costs during periods of forced closure – so that pubs and local brewing businesses can survive and re-open after the crisis. 

CAMRA also wants emergency changes to licensing laws to allow pubs and breweries to sell alcohol to take away, as well as lifting the ban on local brewing and cider-making businesses selling their products online. 

Commenting Chair of CAMRA NI Ruth Sloan said: 

“Pubs are at the heart of our communities and are vital in tackling loneliness, to our tourism sector and providing a supervised setting for responsible drinking. 

“As many pubs stay closed for St Patrick’s Day, and following the Prime Minister’s advice yesterday that people should avoid pubs and clubs, it is vital that the First Minister and Deputy First Minister take action to save pubs from closing for Covid-19 and never re-opening again. 

“CAMRA wants to see the Executive work with the UK Government to provide appropriate support for affected businesses. Whilst ministers’ commitment yesterday to help with business rates is welcome, this must be for all pubs. As help with rates won’t be enough to protect businesses from the drop in custom, in addition we believe pubs should receive help with other costs like staff salaries.

“Licensing laws must also be amended to allow pubs and local small breweries to serve alcohol for collection and take away as well as temporarily relaxing the law banning small brewers, cider makers and off-licences selling local products online. This is vital if our local independent producers are able to survive in the face of losing outlets for their products in the coming months. 

“Finally, to help pubs recover at the end of the crisis we should see a differential rate of duty on draught beer served in pubs Introduced to help them compete with cheap alcohol sold in supermarkets.” 


Notes to editors: 

The text of CAMRA NI’s letter to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister is as follows: 

First Minister & Deputy First Minister
Executive Office 
SD03 Stormont Castle 
BT4 3TT 

17th March 2020 

Dear First Minister & Deputy First Minister, 

Beer, pubs and Covid-19 

We are writing on behalf of CAMRA NI, the Campaign for Real Ale, in relation to the beer and pubs industry and the challenges faced by Covid-19. 

Local pubs are a vital part of communities and are key to our social fabric, helping to tackle loneliness and social isolation. They also provide a supervised, community setting for the responsible consumption of alcohol. 

We fear that the impact of measures taken as a result of Covid-19 could lead to permanent pub closures which would be devastating for those in the industry, for communities and for our tourism offer. Local beer and cider producers also face challenges due to the virus and the restrictive licensing legislation under which they operate. 

As such, we would like the Executive to consider quickly taking the following steps to help the beer, cider and pub industries cope with the impact of Covid-19: 

  • Introduce business rate relief to all pubs regardless of rateable value.
  • Amend licensing legislation to:
    1. allow pubs to serve alcohol to take away.
    2. allow brewers and cider makers to sell their products to take away, and to sell directly online.
  • If pubs are mandated to close, take action – working with the UK Government where appropriate – to help the industry with paying staff salaries, rent, VAT and other costs.
  • Speak up for local pubs and brewing businesses by urging the UK Government to introduce a differential rate of duty on draught beer served in pubs, to help the industry recover at the end of the crisis.

During this crucial time we trust we can count on your support for growing the beer and pub sectors; to recognise the valuable social benefits that pubs that pubs provide; and ensure that pubs, local brewers and cider makers can continue to thrive after the Covid-19 crisis. 

With best wishes, 

Ruth Sloan
Chair – CAMRA NI