Question marks have been raised about the future of Fife’s pubs unless more financial support is found.
The bleak outlook comes after the proprietors of The Criterion in St Andrews expressed concerns over the industry across north east Fife in a letter to local Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain.
Star Pubs and Bars, owned by Heineken, initially told tenants they would suspend rent collection until the end of April.
However, Steve and Hazel Latto, who run The Criterion, revealed they have been told their support package will be based on government grants already received and they will still liable for 50% rent.
They said: “St Andrews is predominately driven by students and tourists. The students will not be returning until September and we will be lucky to see 25% of the normal tourist trade this summer.
“The outlook for our family business was already challenging with the closure.
“What we expected was for the rent to be zeroed and our lease to be extended for the length of the closure period.
“That way the landlords would still get the same money over the period and not unnecessarily burden cash flow when the businesses reopen.
“For a company as large as Heineken to target government grants from their publicans, even though they made 2110 million Euros last year is flying in the face of what the grant was put in place for.
“Unfortunately, there are other pub companies that are doing the same that will affect many pubs in here in Fife.”
Mrs Chamberlain has written to pub giants Heineken calling for them to reconsider their Covid-19 assistance plan for their tenants which they have made conditional on the support offered by the government.
The proprietors of The Criterion intend to use a grant paid by Fife Council to go towards paying their staff on a weekly basis until the furlough portal and repayment scheme is put in place, for paying ongoing costs and to have liquidity to re-open.
Mrs Chamberlain said: “The fact that these grants are to be paid by the local council is evidence enough that this money is intended to support the local economy, not to be redistributed upwards into the pockets of international organisations.”
Lawson Mountstevens, managing director at Star Pubs and Bars, said: “We are and will continue to do as much as we can to help our pubs.
“In addition to the government’s waivers and grants to help cover rent, salaries and other fixed costs, Star Pubs and Bars will provide rent relief to pubs on an individual basis and will suspend the collection of the revised rent until at least June.
“Once the restrictions are lifted, we want to see all of our pubs open, trading and operating as viable businesses as soon as possible.
“We know the rent relief, which represents a significant investment on behalf of Star Pubs and Bars during challenging times for the whole industry, and the support we provide on a pub by pub basis will have a significant bearing on the future sustainability of our licensees’ businesses – and clearly we want to see our pubs thrive in the long-term.”
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