Yesterday (23 December) Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that even more of England’s hospitality businesses would have to close their doors to eat-in customers from Boxing Day.
The situation is equally bleak in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with all the devolved nations planning extended lockdowns that will see hospitality businesses only able to offer takeaway and delivery.
The strict new restrictions are down to rapidly rising Coronavirus cases in most areas of the UK and concerns over two new strains of the virus that are spreading more quickly.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls believes that urgent restrictive actions require “equally urgent accompanying financial supports for businesses, many more of which have been flung closer to commercial failure.”
“Many more pubs, restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels, having invested so much to make their venues safe, are now looking at indefinite and total loss of trading,” she continues.
“They need an immediate message that at the very least, the 5% VAT rate and business rates holiday will remain throughout next year, supported by an urgent package of survival grants, so that they can try to plan strategies to save their businesses.”
Nicholls has also drawn attention to the fact that hospitality was largely shut when transmissions were rising and that the industry is not “the hotbed of infection it has often been accused to have been”.
“The incessant hammering of hospitality businesses must be followed up with an equally exaggerated raft of supports to rescue the sector when the virus is under better control, or many jobs and livelihoods will have been sacrificed for little effect.”
The British Beer & Pub Association warned of the longest winter in memory for Britain’s pubs and brewers.
“The update on the virus and associated tier restrictions today is yet another blow to a sector already on its knees,” says chief executive Emma McClarkin.
“Unless there is a greater package of financial support from the Government to secure our pubs and the brewers that supply them, a wave of business failures in the New Year is inevitable.”
“If the Government acts now they can still secure pubs and jobs by giving locals in England the sort of support those in Wales and Scotland are getting. Without this the outlook is very bleak indeed.”
Operators in Bristol - which moved from Tier 3 to Tier 2 earlier this month but was moved back to Tier 3 yesterday - have reacted with anger at only being able to open for eat-in for a week in what is traditionally the busiest periods of the year.
“We’re devastated that the scapegoating of hospitality has been continued,” Kieran Waite, who runs a number of restaurants in the city including Bravas and Gambas.
“I just don’t see the same level of care taken across many other industries, and truly believe that hospitality can be part of the solution and provide safe places to socialise.”
“We planned to open our restaurants until the 30th as a minimum and have stocked up accordingly. The cabinet has made one Covid cock-up after another.
“There needs to be a minister for hospitality appointed and a serious financial package laid out for our industry before it’s too late.”
James Thomson - the co-founder of Hove’s Wild Flor - says that Sussex moving up the Tiers system wasn’t a shock but came as a blow nonetheless.
“We did see if coming. From a wastage point of view it’s not too bad. I feel more sorry for the suppliers, who had no choice but to secure stock for restaurant pre-orders.”
The rise in cases in Brighton and Hove and the surrounding area coupled with Tier 2 restrictions resulted in bookings falling as December progressed, with many cancelling tables, although the restaurant has had a flurry of last-minute bookings for today, it's last day of trading in 2020.
“If it’s any longer than a month it’s going to be a struggle without further support. In November we got very little but we had been able to build up a good head of steam in July, August, September and October."
"By contrast December hasn’t been great. We need an injection of cash and we need to be more vocal and get our customers to put pressure on the Government too.”