The Wine and Spirits Trade Association is turning its focus on pushing for a broader definition of hospitality, to help suppliers to the on-trade to access the same levels of support.
Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said: “The reason for this is that we think it is unfair that on-trade suppliers don’t have access to the same support that the hospitality sector has.
“If social distancing measures are in place for longer – and the hospitality sector is one of the last to open fully – then it is likely there will be some on-trade support from government so it is important that we get in there early with this issue. On-trade suppliers are as much part of the hospitality sector as on-trade retailers.”
Beale noted that the WSTA has been pushing the Treasury for a blanket postponement on excise duty payments until June, but this now looks unlikely.
He said: “There is an understanding however that they will consider a postponement on a case by case basis so we recommend people contact them directly if they need to discuss this issue.”
Beale said this week feels “like we have moved into a slightly different phase”.
He said: “Now there is a debate about public health versus economic health and the government is being judged by both. Alongside this there is now a clearer opposition to the government and Keir Starmer is a lawyer by background, and so they will be trying to hold the government to account on these issues.
“From the WSTA’s point of view we are now moving from being reactive to proactive.”
Simon Stannard, director of policy, reinforced the message that the WSTA will be pushing for a clearer definition of “hospitality”.
He said: “It is currently defined as businesses that are dealing directly with customers. So some of the businesses that supply into that sector are not able to make use of the rules for that.
“If some sort of social distancing is extended until the end of the year hospitality will be probably among the last to have restrictions lifted. We need to make sure that those that are supplying into the hospitality sector have access to that support.”
Beale said: “The question is ‘What is going to happen next [with this pandemic]?’ We need to be careful about the possibility of a second wave. I think it is extremely unlikely we will be going back to 100% in the hospitality sector.”
The WSTA is working closely with the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and UK Hospitality on these issues.
Beale also commented on his views about the current status of the wine trade in the UK.
He said: “We don’t know the current status of the UK wine trade exactly but what I would say is that amongst all this turmoil are some rather strange stats that shows demand overall looks very similar now to before coronavirus, but it is just that one route to the consumer has been closed down completely and this has been redirected to the off-trade.
“I would add that I think this is temporary as people are stockpiling and I think it is likely that demand will fall but at the moment I think we are seeing a switching of channels to satisfy demand. We don’t know when the economy will open up again and we don’t know the affects medium and long-term.”