‘Less shit than it might have been…’ UK trade reacts to Autumn Budget

Drinks: Drinks
Other: Business, People

Most of the drinks industry was cautiously optimistic about Philip Hammond’s announcement of a freeze in duty on booze and changes to the evaluation of Business Rates in his budget.

But not everyone was cracking open the (price-frozen) champagne. Especially not Imbibe‘s editor.

Imbibe spoke to figures across the drinks and hospitality worlds for their take on yesterday’s announcements…

Charlie Young, Vinoteca

‘The duty freeze is a good thing, but frankly it’s already unreasonably high. Just look at how much more expensive we are compared to other countries. We’ve had freezes before and they don’t last long. No rise is a positive of sorts, but it would have been scandalous to put them up further.

‘You can’t argue too much about an increase in the Minimum Living Wage. We always try to pay above the MLW anyway, and those of our staff who are on it make a good chunk in service charge.’

Will Beckett, Hawksmoor

‘This budget is slightly less shit than it might have been.  When inflation is at 3 or 4% a duty freeze will feel like a cut in real terms. But like for like sales are down which suggests that customers are worried about what they are spending their money on.

‘The increase to the National Living Wage isn’t much, but coupled with an increase in tax allowance it should help the lowest earners. Overall, it could have been worse.’

Martin Lam, consultant

‘This year’s rates evaluation was fixed in 2015. The next will be in 2020, and probably implemented in 2022, and the Chancellor has said that his new system will kick in after that. We’re looking eight years from now, but the average lifespan of a restaurant is three years. That’s two ownerships ahead! It’s no use to anyone looking to decide whether to go into – or stay in – business now.’

Kate Nicholls, chief executive, Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers

‘At a time of rising costs, a freeze in the beer duty and a continuation of support for pubs on business rates is very welcome. The next step is for the Government to push ahead with its promised package of root and branch reform for business rates.’



Miles BealeMiles Beale, chief executive, Wine & Spirit Trade Association

‘We are pleased that the Chancellor has found his festive spirit and frozen wine and spirit duty. He has recognised that rebalancing the UK’s excessive duty rates is a win/win for the Treasury, the wine and spirit trade and consumers.’



Darren Seward, hospitality specialist, NFU Mutual

‘Increasing the National Living Wage to £7.83 is positive for workers, but the question remains regarding where the stream of workers will come from after Brexit.’

Karen Betts, chief executive, Scotch Whisky Association

‘We welcome the freeze in excise duty on spirits, which helps support the competitiveness of Scotch. But tax on Scotch is still very high. £4 in every £5 spent on Scotch goes to the Treasury.’

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive, British Beer & Pub Association

‘The Chancellor’s decision to freeze beer duty and cancel his planned rise will secure over 3,000 jobs in pubs and the wider beer supply chain. This is absolutely the right step towards a fairer deal for Britain’s beer drinkers and pub-goers.’

Simon Mydlowski, leisure and hospitality expert, Gordons LLP

‘The freezing of alcohol duty on beer, wine, cider and spirits is a clear recognition of the thriving independent hospitality sector in the UK.

‘We have seen significant increases in independent bars and restaurants opening year-on-year. Consumers have been voting with their feet and supporting these establishments as a lifestyle choice rather than being economically driven and the freeze on duty will mean growth in the sector is not hampered by price rises.’

Colin Valentine, national chairman, CAMRA

‘Pub goers were fearing the worst from this Budget but will now be raising a glass. We welcome the Chancellor’s decision to extend the £1,000 rate relief for pubs for one more year. We would also like to see a wholesale review of the business rates regime, which unfairly penalises pubs and rewards online retailers.’

About Author

Chris Losh

After five years working on My Weekly magazine (during which time he learned how to write horoscopes and make things out of mince) in 1995 Chris Losh entered the world of drinks writing and, despite all advice from his doctor – and the wishes of most South African winemakers – has stayed there ever since. He began on Wine and Spirit International, editing it for several years before moving on to edit Wine Magazine. Both publications have since gone the way of the Dodo, but he claims to have nothing to do with their demise, and his alibi appears solid, since he was freelance writing for anyone who would pay him at the time. In 2007, he helped to set up both Imbibe magazine and the Sommelier Wine Awards, and has spent much of the last three years eating, drinking, and listening to French sommeliers talk about minerality. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Feature Writer of the Year, but didn’t win. Perhaps he should have stuck to horoscopes. And mince.

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