Pub owners have called for greater tax reductions to help their businesses survive as many resume trading for the first time since lockdown.
Industry leaders said further financial support, including cuts to beer duty and VAT, was needed to help pubs and breweries stay afloat over the coming months.
Their call comes ahead of the Government’s summer statement on Wednesday, where Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to outline plans to support the UK’s economy.
Wetherspoons chairman and founder Tim Martin said “tax equality” was needed if pubs and restaurants were to “survive and thrive” in the future.
He told the PA news agency: “Supermarkets pay almost no VAT on food sales and pubs pay 20%.
“Without equality the price gap between pubs and restaurants and supermarkets will continue to grow so that ‘on-trade’ becomes more and more uncompetitive.”
The national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), Nik Antona, said he would like to see the Chancellor reduce beer duty – the tax on producing and selling beer – for the “on-trade”.
Mr Antona said: “He could reduce the duty on the on-trade and make beer cheaper in pubs than it is off-site, in supermarkets, and therefore reinvigorate the industry.
“It would bring people back to the pub and stop them drinking at home.”
Mr Antona issued the call for action to help pubs as he enjoyed a post-shutdown pint at his local, the Royal Oak in Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire.
The pub’s licensee, Steve Boulter, agreed that the move would have a massive impact.
The landlord told PA: “Having had three months of all being on canned beer, which is a pound a can, you do think: ‘Will people come back?’ when it’s three or four pounds a pint.
“I agree with Nik. Pricing makes a big difference so it needs to be the other way round – cheaper in pubs and a bit more expensive in the supermarkets.”
Customers were allowed back into pubs in England for the first time in more than three months on Saturday as coronavirus lockdown measures were further eased by the Government.
But British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said the sector would not be making a profit “for some time”.
She said the industry was already in a “precarious” situation prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and that 18,000 pubs could close by the end of the year without further support.
Ms McClarkin told PA: “If we don’t deal with what were underlying causes of problems stunting our growth – like the beer duty, like huge business rates bills – if we don’t see business rate reform, if we don’t see support for businesses up and down this country, then there is going to be serious issues.”