West Dorset publicans say they feel frustrated by the lack of government support as costs continue to spiral – but remain optimistic for the future.

The hospitality trade has suffered successive blows in recent times.

Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have formed a perfect storm in making it difficult to stay in business.

Despite the challenges that have arisen, Natalie Legg, who runs the Acorn Inn in Evershot with her husband Rich, remains optimistic about the industry's future.

READ: Palmers responds after The George in Bridport closes

“It is incredibly tough, we were hoping for more support from the government,” she said.

“Even when you are making more revenue, it doesn’t mean profit, so you have to keep things tight and be mindful of the costs, but we must have hope in the industry.

“Don’t be defeated by it or hesitate to make changes – read the room – what are the locals and guests interested in?

“We’ve had a growth mindset, you have to look at where the business is and where there are opportunities.”

High energy costs have been the most challenging and the lack of government support has not helped, a village pub management committee chairman said.

READ: West Dorset restaurants in 'bleak' situation amid closures

Rick Dyke, chairman of the White Lion pub’s management committee, says the future of the Broadwindsor pub ‘looks positive,’ but like other establishments in the hospitality trade, it faces serious issues.

Dorset Echo: Rick DykeRick Dyke (Image: Supplied)

He said: “Costs are spiralling upwards yet there is little help from central government.

“Primarily it’s continuing high energy costs. The White Lion is a relatively low user in comparison to many businesses and our usage falls below the threshold applied before any benefit is received from the government’s Commercial Energy Bill Discount Scheme.

“So we’ve had no help with ever increasing energy costs.”

He added that, aside from lowering the threshold for small businesses, there were two areas where the pub and others in the hospitality trade would like help - duty relief and VAT.

READ: Bridge House restaurant in Bridport closed amid rising costs

As far as duty relief was concerned, Mr Dyke said that freezing the level of cask duty at the last two budgets was welcome but it is still at a very high level compared to most of Europe.

Mr Dyke said: “The significant gap between pub and supermarket prices has driven a lot of people away from their local pub.

“Why not go further and reduce the on-trade duty significantly and raise off-trade to make up the difference? On-trade prices are significantly more than off-trade as it stands.”

He also believes the VAT threshold should be raised to £250,000.

READ: Closure of Clockhouse Inn - 'The Clock' pub - at Chideock

Mr Dyke continued: “This would relieve most smaller pubs of the significant burden that VAT creates in terms of administration and allow them to charge lower prices.

“This wouldn’t address the cliff-edge effect of passing the threshold but the benefit to many small businesses would still be significant and quite probably a lifeline.

“An alternative would be to exempt hospitality from VAT as an extension of what happened during the pandemic and create a more level playing field with the supermarkets.

He added: “In last autumn’s statement, the Chancellor specifically referenced the plight of pubs and we had hoped that the spring  statement would be taken as an opportunity to recognise the critical need to invest in pubs, supporting their future growth.

"We will keep on making that case."