'Stopping gatherings of more than six people is “another kick in the teeth” for the sector'

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th September 2020

Sector trade bodies have urged the government to extend the furlough scheme until the end of the first quarter of 2021 with gatherings of more than six people being prevented.

The government has also announced it will be mandatory for all hospitality businesses in England to take the contact details of a member of every party. Fines will be levied against venues that fail to ensure their premises remain covid-secure while opening hours will be restricted in some areas.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Boris Johnson’s statement represents a further shift towards hospitality businesses to act to protect public health. This is a challenge the sector has already grasped and will redouble efforts to achieve, in the interest of customers and staff, and to minimise the risk of further lock-downs. This will, of course, be more easily achieved with the co-operation of customers, so the measures to make clear the responsibility of individuals was equally welcome. Any fines charged against hospitality venues for breaching covid-secure requirements must be proportionate and pertain to factors wholly under the control of the venue. Johnson said a later announcement will be made regarding a review of other types of gatherings, such as business conferences, and we strongly urge any such announcement also includes the roadmap for a return to trade for nightclubs, for which we have long been asking. We realise, of course, any employment support cannot be open-ended but, based on the rate of recovery of the sector thus far, we would propose a potential winding down at the end of the first quarter of 2021, as the sector looks forward to the summer season.”

The government has also announced businesses in England that are required to shut because of local interventions will now be able to claim up to £1,500 per property every three weeks. To be eligible for the grant, a business must have been required to close due to local covid-19 restrictions. The largest businesses will receive £1,500 every three weeks they are required to close. Smaller businesses will receive £1,000. Payments are triggered by a national decision to close businesses in a high incidence area. Each payment will be made for a three-week lock-down period. Each new three-week lock-down period triggers an additional payment.

Kate said: “The grants would cover some costs, but more detail is needed to properly assess the benefit. For example, in Bolton at present, venues can open as takeaways, so presumably are not being forcibly closed, making them ineligible for the grants. This cannot be right.”

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “It is important to understand the changes to social gatherings announced today will have an immediate cooling effect on public confidence to go out and visit our pubs. And will have a direct impact on trade that will be felt hard across an industry that is already struggling to get back on its feet. At such a delicate point in our recovery after a steady start this summer, as we head into autumn and winter where we expect trade to already slow down, this is very concerning. With the announcements made pubs and breweries will need much more support from the government if they are to survive. An extension on business rates relief, continuation of the VAT cut to food and soft drinks, a sector specific furlough extension and a significant beer duty cut are needed now. These measures, along with the welcomed compensation for businesses closed as a result of local lock-downs, will help pubs survive, protect jobs and ensure they can continue to serve our communities.”

David Abrahamovitch, founder of coffee and cocktail brand Grind, said stopping gatherings of more than six people is “another kick in the teeth” for the sector.

He added: “This will undermine consumer confidence and set the entire sector back even further. It’s incredibly difficult to understand this move in the context of the current data, especially in London where death and hospitalisation rates are low. The furlough scheme is coming to an end and trading through the important Christmas period is starting to feel less and less likely. It’s hard to foresee a situation that doesn’t result in a bloodbath and closures in the industry later this year and continuing into early 2021. It is going to be a tragic scene across the UK as the handling of this pandemic feels increasingly shambolic.”

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th September 2020

'Stopping gatherings of more than six people is “another kick in the teeth” for the sector'