Anger At ‘First To Close, Last To Open’ Policy

Hoteliers in Bristol are angry about reports suggesting Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends for hospitality businesses to be among the last to open when lockdown restrictions ease.

The PM is due to unveil his ‘roadmap to recovery’ on Monday (Feb 22) and has said he hopes to introduce a “gradual and phased” relaxation of Covid restrictions.

Reports this week suggested that the hospitality industry could hopefully be back to normal by July, with restrictions on pubs and restaurants likely to be relaxed first.

But the Bristol Hoteliers Association (BHA) are angry that their businesses will once again be among the last to be allowed to re-open.

Yesterday (17 Feb) reports quoted the Prime Minister saying: “You have to remember from last year that we opened up hospitality fully as one of the last things that we did because there is obviously an extra risk of transmission from hospitality.”

BHA Chair Raphael Herzog said: “For some time now, we have been asking for hotels to be treated fairly and equally to the likes of non-essential shops.

“We have all invested significantly in making sure our premises are as Covid-safe as they can possibly be.

“It’s safer to stay in a hotel having a drink at a table, with dinner served, than it is visiting a shopping mall or a grocery store.

“Yet we are being made to wait longer than most other sectors before we can return.”

Mr Herzog has already outlined the BHA’s ‘budget wishlist’, calling on Cancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the furlough scheme, extend the reduced rate of VAT for hospitality businesses for another 12 months and introduce a 100% holiday on business rates covering the next financial year, when he delivers his budget on 3 March.

Mr Herzog added: “As soon as we are able to re-open, we can start to employ more people, support our local suppliers and build on our sense of local pride, investing in our premises and places.

“Most importantly, we can go back to doing what we do best, providing a fantastic experience for our customers and bringing people in our community together.

“We’ve always been among the first businesses to close and the last to be allowed to re-open.

“All we are asking is to be treated fairly, and in the same way as non-essential shops. We do not want to see unhelpful restrictions like a 10pm curfew, only being allowed to serve alcohol with substantial meals and a confusing tier system.

“We need a clear roadmap, a clear strategy, a commitment to providing us with more support, and we need to be treated fairly.”