The state’s mistrust of licensees is going to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds

While pleased that an end to lockdown is finally in sight, Westside business leader MIKE OLLEY is frustrated at government plans that continue to ignore the safety of pubs and bars.

At last, we have a future plan to shake off Corona. Unfortunately, it ignores the blisteringly overwhelming evidence that pubs are incredibly safe places to go into.

It ignores that fact that even a small local boozer is costing thousands a month to keep closed. Thousands a month to the person who owns and operates it and many more thousands to us the taxpayer on top to keep it closed.

I do welcome any plan, however, that works – and let’s sincerely hope this plan will work. Sadly, the previous plans haven’t. Not that I criticise anyone for that. This is still unchartered waters and, irrespective of the impressive qualifications any expert has, it’s only guesswork. Plenty of unknowns.

Yet there is one thing I and everyone who has more than a passing interest knows: pubs are COVID-19 safe environments. Despite that, non-essential shops get to open before the local pub. Why?

Landlords and landladies are licensed by government. The licence is taken very seriously. If you commit a crime not related to the licensing trade, you can lose your liquor license. If you turn out to be a bad publican, you will probably lose your liquor license. Lose that and your livelihood is over.

That’s how heavily regulated pubs are. It’s a significant threat over the head of any landlord or landlady. And I can tell you they take their responsibilities very seriously indeed.

I’m not saying shopkeepers are not as serious. My son manages a large, well-known supermarket and I know he takes his job extremely seriously. He is as concerned about labels on the shelves facing the right way as he is about hygiene and stock rotation. It’s very much a proper job.

Therefore, why not put these two professions on a par? Why keep pubs closed, except for outdoor drinking, and yet shops can open, be they outside or indoors?

I know people are raising all sorts of anomalies which at first sight appear to be a little silly. But this is certainly not one of them.

I calculate that the taxation paid in from Westside is a quarter of a billion pounds every year. So roughly speaking, to deprive the reopening of our economy for a month is going to cost more than £20 million in lost taxes.

We are all going to be hearing lots more about taxes as we climb out of the pandemic. No matter how they wrap it up, more taxes are a coming.

And I have to say that the government not trusting publicans as they trust shopkeepers will cost us hundreds of millions of pounds across the country. Who knows, maybe billions.

That makes me and you a little bit poorer, and it’s sad to know that this is all because the government trusts us to go shopping, but they don’t trust us to have a quiet drink.

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