BREWER Thwaites has announced it is suspending the collection of tenanted pub rents until the end of April.

The pub company in Mellor Brook, which owns hundreds of pubs across the UK, including many in East Lancashire, has sent a letter to pub managers and landlords across the region.

Bosses want to give the tenants a bit of breathing space as the coronavirus is expected to decimate trade as people were told to avoid congregating in pubs but not forbidden.

In the letter, Thwaites said: “Having listened to many of you over the last couple of days we have decided to suspend the collection of tenanted pub rents until the end of April.

“This will give you the opportunity to use the cash that we are not collecting to pay your staff and other costs and give us some time to assess the full implications of COVID-19 on the pub.

“We will also be able to see the effects that your own cost mitigation plans have had, whilst understanding how quickly the chancellor’s latest pub support package will make it to grass roots levels, as well as the payment of business rates grants promised in April and any further intervention that may come from government departments.

“We do ask that you continue to pay for stock delivered in line with your payment terms.”

The company moved to its Ribble Valley site in 2018, away from its Blackburn town centre home – which it had been its residence for 221 years.

Andrew Buchanan, director of pubs and brewing at Thwaites, said: “There is no doubt that our pubs are feeling the pressure following the confusing message that has been put out by the government.

“By not thinking it necessary to shut pubs whilst encouraging social distancing, the government has left businesses in limbo.

“We are doing what we can to support our pubs through this challenging time and suspending pub rent collection is one example.

“What I’m really proud of is the entrepreneurial spirit of those people in our pubs who have turned their focus to supporting their local community and helping vulnerable customers - offering to deliver food, prescriptions and making contact with those in self-isolation; offering to act as food banks; launching take-away and delivery services overnight.

“Never has it been more clear how important pubs are for communities in times of crisis.

“I want to thank everyone for continuing to support their pub and indeed any local business.”