Friday Five: the week's top news

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Friday Five: the week's top news

Related tags: Restaurant, Coronavirus

We round-up some of this week's main hospitality news stories including the closure of Roux at Parliament Square; and restaurants in Northern Ireland getting the go-ahead to reopen.

- Michel Roux Jr has closed his Westminster-based restaurant Roux at Parliament Square​ as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. The permanent closure was announced in a statement on the restaurant's website, describing how it had suffered in this 'incredibly difficult year'. Headed up by MasterChef: The Professionals 2009 winner Steve Groves since 2013, the restaurant was a popular destination for high-powered business people, politicians and socialites. It was launched in 2010 by Roux Jr in a listed building designed by Alfred Waterhouse, the architect of London’s iconic Natural History Museum. The statement reads: "Dear guests. Our restaurant has regrettably suffered during this incredibly difficult year. That, combined with the ongoing uncertainty ahead, has resulted in the permanent closure of Roux at Parliament Square. We thank our guests for their patronage and support and extend a special thank you to Michel Roux Jr., Head Chef Steve Groves and every single member of the team for their endless dedication over the past decade."

- Restaurants in Northern Ireland will be able to reopen from today​ (11 December) following an eight-week lockdown of the country's hospitality sector. The Executive at Stormont has confirmed that hotels and guesthouses will also be able to reopen, as will pubs and private members’ clubs serving a main or substantive meal 'that has been prepared in their own kitchen'. However, nightclubs, wet-led pubs and private members’ clubs unable to serve a 'substantial meal' will not be able to reopen, although off sales will be permitted up to 10.30pm each evening. Northern Irelands Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neil, has said that an additional support package will be put in place for traditional drink-only pubs unable to reopen.

- A Birmingham-based restaurateur has delayed plans to launch a legal challenge against the Government's Tier 3 restrictions​ while local leaders continue to push for greater financial support for the sector. Last week it was reported that Sam Morgan, who owns fine-dining restaurant and bar Craft at The International Convention Centre, was seeking a judicial review of the restrictions that are in place across large swathes of northern England and the Midlands. Morgan is backed by 256 businesses from across the region, who have joined forces under the newly-established Birmingham Hospitality Group. Originally the group intended to send a letter directly to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday (4 December) with the demands, but Morgan has now delayed this in order to allow the city's Mayor and leader of the council to try and reach an agreement on securing targeted financial support for businesses hit by the restrictions.

- The Government has confirmed that the lease forfeiture and debt enforcement moratoria will both be extended​until the end of March 2021. However, it adds that this will be the final extension to the protections, which came into force at the onset of the Covid-19 crisis. A restriction on landlords using Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) to recover unpaid rent will also automatically extend to the end of March, in line with the moratoria's new expiry date. The Government is encouraging landlords and tenants still struggling to reach an agreement over rent arrears to continue working towards finding a mutual agreement, with further guidance to support negotiations set to be published shortly. Alongside this, Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick has announced a review of the outdated commercial landlord and tenant legislation, to address concerns that the current framework does not reflect the current economic conditions. This review will consider how to enable better collaboration between commercial landlords and tenants and also how to improve the leasing process to ensure our high streets and town centres thrive as we recover from the pandemic and beyond.

- An industry voice has warned that moving London to Tier 3 and thus forcing the capital's hospitality businesses to close would 'further devastate' the sector​. Ahead of the Government reviewing the country's tier restrictions next Wednesday (16 December), Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said there is 'growing speculation' among political leaders in the capital that London needs to move to the highest tier in England's Coronavirus alert system. Transmission figures for the week to December 3 show Coronavirus cases have increased in 24 of London's 32 boroughs. Neil Pattison, director at hospitality jobs board​, says moving the capital into Tier 3 would further devastate the industry. “Pent up demand for pints in the pub or a meal out could have injected as much as £15.9bn into the economy before New Year’s Day," he says. "The ever-changing tiered restrictions and the possibility of London being placed into Tier 3 would further devastate the hospitality industry, with businesses across the country already bracing themselves to lose £8bn in expected revenue this festive season under the current rules. "As well as damage to the sector, tighter restrictions will undoubtedly force many thousands of our talented hospitality workforce to look elsewhere for work."

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

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