A WILMSLOW publican fears his business will not survive the lockdown without rent relief.

Paul Johnson, who leases The Horse and Jockey on Gravel Lane, says that despite the lockdown choking off his income, his landlords Punch Pubs will not cancel his rent, opting to defer payment instead.

The 49-year-old, who has worked in the pub sector for more than three decades, is concerned he won’t be able to afford to get up and running once the Government gives the green light on pubs reopening again.

He is calling for the rent to be cancelled as other local breweries have done for competitor pubs in the area.

Paul explained that the Horse and Jockey’s monthly rent is set around the turnover it expects to make in a year. Average expenses are then taken out and the remainder is split in two – the rent owed to the pub landlords, and profit for the tenant.

But while takings have disappeared overnight, rent reassessments only take place every five years, meaning that when those rent demands resume, there will be less money in the till to pay them with.

Paul, who lives at the pub with his wife Paula and their two daughters, said: “Now during the lockdown, the sales have all gone. Punch Pubs still expect us to pay the rent from sales we don’t have despite it being their model to split the money after all sales and expenses have been paid.

“The rent bill is growing and yes we got a grant from the Government all families and businesses, I still have other bills to pay. 

“And once pubs get the nod, I will need to replenish the cellar of stock, the kitchen of food and get ready for a new world of social distancing in public. It’s not going to be easy.

“Local brewers like Robinson’s and JW Lees have cancelled rents and supported their tenants completely.

“I want to be here at the end of all this, but with Punch Pubs playing hardball, I am not so sure. If I didn’t live here and love it so much, I would have handed the keys back already. It’s that bad, we may have to anyway.”

Neil Dawson, operations director for Punch Pubs, said: “These are clearly extremely difficult and challenging circumstances for everyone connected with the pub industry.

“As a business, we are only ever as successful as our pubs and we are fully committed to working in partnership with all of our publicans, including Paul, so that we get through this very challenging time together.

“Since the closure was announced, we have deferred the collection of rent and other charges for every one of our pubs until further notice and we are working closely with each of our publicans on an individual basis to understand their circumstances and how to best support them going forward, taking into account the level of Government support to which they are eligible.

“Whilst we are planning for the time when our pubs can re-open, timescales remain uncertain. It is therefore important that we manage our own business to ensure we can best support all of our publicans through this closure phase and beyond into the subsequent reopening and recovery phases with the aim of getting our whole business through this crisis.”