March 4, 2021
Business

Pubs push up prices as thousands of Britons head down the boozer as lockdown eases

WITH pubs throughout England reopening today, thirsty punters are being tipped to guzzle their way through 15 million pints – but they will be paying extra for the privilege, with chains including Wetherspoons hiking prices after an enforced three-month coronavirus lay-off.

The pub chain – founded by ardent Brexiteer Tim Martin – is increasing beers, wines and spirits by 10 pence as it reopens the bulk of its 900 pubs today, while the cost of meals is going up by roughly 20p. Additionally, Samuel Smiths, which operate roughly 200 pubs, mostly in the north of England, will put the cost of pints or lager and bitter up by as much as £1.

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Prices at Wetherspoons pubs will vary depending on their location – at The Oxted Inn in Surrey, the price of an Ultimate Burger plus a pint or other alcoholic drink is now £8.30, having increased on several occasions from £7.75 in early 2017.

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “All we can say in this area is that we try to keep prices as competitive as possible.

“From time to time there will be price rises but we always try and minimise them.

“Even with price rises, the entire pub industry, including Wetherspoon, will be less profitable than before pubs closed, because costs will be so much higher.”

Wetherspoons has set out details of the prices on new disposable menus in a bid to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

In total, the chain has spent £11 million in a bid to reduce the risk of infection, with dedicated staff members wiping down surfaces and door handles regularly, plus protective screens dense seating areas and at tills.

Customers will also be asked to pay and order through the Wetherspoons app wherever possible.

Meanwhile, Samuel Smith is pushing up the price of Taddy Lager from £2.30 to £3.40, and of Sovereign Bitter from £2.04 to £3.04.

Tom Stainer, Chief Executive of beer and pub lobbying group CAMRA said: “We do understand that pubs are facing increased overheads and reduced income due to restricted customer numbers, and may have to consider raising prices to make ends meet.

“Wed hope that this kept to a minimum, as pubs will be trying to persuade people to head back to the local.

“Many people have been drinking cheap supermarket beer during lockdown, and price rises wont help to persuade people to return to the pub.

“I would hope that any price rises are reasonable and purely to ensure pubs are viable on reopening, rather than taking advantage of the situation to hike prices unreasonably.”

Police said they were “absolutely prepared” for the pubs reopening, while hospitals have been warned to prepare for a New Year’s Eve-style weekend.

Marc Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire, told BBC radio: “There’s an element of decompression going on, particularly with younger people who’ve had some very responsible parents keeping them in over recent weeks.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on people to behave responsibly and respect social distancing regulations as the risk of a resurgence of coronavirus remains.

However, he also stressed the importance of supporting businesses, saying: “The success of these businesses, the livelihoods of those who rely on them, and ultimately the economic health of the whole country is dependent on every single one of us acting responsibly. We must not let them down.”

Saturday’s rule changes apply only to England because Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have set their own timetables for easing lockdown restrictions.

Numbers will be limited, no one will be allowed to stand at the bar and there will be no live music.

Patrons will also have to give their details to allow tracers to identify them if anyone later tests positive.

Express.co.uk has also approached Mitchells and Butlers, which runs pub chains including O’Neill’s and AllBarOne, and Fullers, which has 400 pubs throughout London and the South East, to ask if they are increasing prices.

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