Friday Five: The week's top news

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Friday Five: The week's top news

Related tags: Coronavirus

As the Coronavirus crisis continues to dominate the headlines, we round-up some of the main stories regarding how it has affected the hospitality industry in the past week.

- The Business Secretary has confirmed that the earliest hospitality businesses will be able to reopen will be 4 July​, dashing hopes that they may have been able to open earlier. Speaking at Tuesday's (9 June) Coronavirus press briefing, Alok Sharma quashed speculation that some pubs, bars and restaurants in England may be able to reopen their outside spaces as early as 22 June, as had been mooted the day before​. He said the Government was following its roadmap, which sets out the 'ambition' to reopen some hospitality business by July 4 'at the earliest'.

- US burger and bar chain Wahlburgers has permanently closed what was its debut European restaurant in London's Covent Garden​ little more than a year after it first opened. In a statement, Wahlburgers cited the financial impact of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis as the reason behind the closure; although prior to the pandemic there's was already suggestions that the site was struggling. Wahlburgers, which is run by chef Paul Wahlberg in partnership with his brothers Mark and Donnie and operates roughly 25 sites across the US, opened its debut UK restaurant in May last year.

- Hospitality Union’s Jonathan Downey has written a second letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, featuring a revised #NationalTimeOut rent deal proposal​. The original proposal, which was submitted to the Treasury back in April​, called for a nine month rent-free period (from April to December) for hospitality, leisure and retail businesses to provide them with some respite during the Coronavirus pandemic. However, Downey’s new proposal asks for a 12-month #NationalTimeOut (covering four rent quarters from 25 March 2020 to 24 March 2021) that would be comprised of a rent-free period whilst a business is closed, moving to a turnover rent once it is open again. 

- London-based commercial landlord firms Soho Estates and Shaftesbury are leading a campaign to temporarily pedestrianise the Soho area​ and allow hospitality businesses to set-up al fresco drinking and dining areas. With the fear that many venues will have to remain closed due to social distancing rules, the Soho Summer Street Festival would see licensing measures across the West End district be relaxed for the duration of the summer, allowing venues to expand operations into the streets. Soho institutions including Lina Stores, Soho House, The Groucho Club, L’Escargot and G-A-Y Bar are helping to drive the initiative alongside independent restaurants such as 10 Greek Street, Sussex, Tonkotsu, Old Compton Brasserie and Polpo.

- The Restaurant Group (TRG) has announced that its struggling leisure arm is to enter into a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) that will see its estate reduced by approximately 125 sites​. TRG says the decision follows a comprehensive review of the group's leisure portfolio, which includes the Frankie and Benny’s, Garfunkel's and Chiquito chains. As a result, approximately 210 sites have been identified as either being underperforming; on unfavourable lease terms; not expected to generate future profitable returns going forward; or subject to a combination of the three. Of those sites, 125 have been identified for closure in the short term under the CVA proposal, with the balance being subject to a reduction in rental costs and revised lease terms. It is thought that between 2,000 and 3,000 employees could lose their jobs as a result of the closures.

Check below for more of this week's headlines, or click here​.

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