Clearly many pubs cannot survive this off-on economy. Like constantly flicking a light switch, the end result is that the light bulb will pop; so it is with pubs. Those premises that spent a good deal of time and money trying to become Covid-secure will feel rightly aggrieved that they have been landed in the drink.
The wisdom of the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme is now looking shaky. Firstly there’s the mixed message it sends: “Go out! Eat! But now we’re closing the pubs early because you ate out and helped out!”
More importantly, might the £522m that the Treasury flung at the scheme have been better spent on a functioning test and trace system, to ensure that hospitality businesses like pubs were not exposed to the danger of a stop-start autumn? Or that, if they were, closures could at least be managed on a much more localised level?
There’s only so many times a landlord will pour away his locally sourced ales because of a lockdown before he throws his hands up in despair and decides this business is not for him (and it’s worth remembering wet-led pubs, which serve little, if any, food, won’t have benefited from Rishi Sunak’s half-price dinners).
In the long, painful decline of the pub, there is one last suspect to consider: the great British public itself.
Beer consumption has been on a downward trajectory as we have become more health conscious. There has been a minor uptick in recent years, but this has mostly come from off-trade (at home) drinking.