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Boxing Day Lockdown Brings More Hardship to Hospitality Sector

Hospitality trade bodies have issued strong warnings that the sector needs urgent financial support from government following the announcement that more restaurants, hotels and pubs in England face closure from Boxing Day, as large swathes of the country moving to Tier 3 and Tier 4 restrictions, forcing hospitality and on trade businesses to close with the exception of takeaway and delivery.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Health Secretary Mr Hancock said: “From 00.01 on Boxing Day, Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, those parts of Essex not yet in Tier 4, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire including Portsmouth and Southampton but with the exception of the New Forest will all be escalated to Tier 4.”

Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, Isle of Wight, New Forest, North Hampshire, Cheshire and Warrington will be upgraded to Tier 3 and Cornwall and Herefordshire will be placed into Tier 2.

Only the Isles of Scilly will remain in tier 1.

Matt Hancock said “that it was absolutely vital that we act”, to curtail infection rates following the discovery of highly contagious variant of the coronavirus prevalent across the south-east of England and London.

“We simply cannot have the kind of Christmas that we all yearn for” he added.

This latest set of restrictions has brought this may to sector leaders , UK hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls tweeted: ” the  best any open business can manage is just 15% of normal revenues. Over 95% hospitality closed. 80% by law and the remainder because it isn’t possible to trade. It means hospitality has only traded normally for nine weeks in 2020.”

She added: “These urgent restrictive actions require equally urgent accompanying financial supports for businesses, many more of which have been flung closer to commercial failure.”

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) estimates that 82% of pubs are now in Tier 3 or 4, and 94% are unviable.

“It is clear that it is going to be the longest winter in living memory for Britain’s pubs and brewers,” said BBPA 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.”

CAMRA National Chairman Nik Antona said:“Pubs, clubs and breweries have already been struggling to survive, having been singled out for additional restrictions under the tier system – without specific support to help them out.

“With even more areas of the country moving into tiers where the ability of hospitality businesses to make a living is severely curtailed – or closed down completely – it is even more important that a new, specific support package for pubs and brewers is launched.

“The news that these restrictions will last until Spring, and normality may not return until 2022, means that it is essential for the Government to now step in to protect perfectly viable hospitality businesses that are struggling under unfair and unevidenced restrictions. This is the only way they can return to making a huge contribution to the economy and our communities as soon as possible.”

Ms Nicholls added that the increase in new coronavirus cases had occurred while much of the hospitality industry in affected areas had been shut down.

She said: “While the government looks now to address the immediate problem, it must recognise that hospitality was largely shut when transmissions were rising, so was 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 support to rescue the sector when the virus is under better control, or many jobs and livelihoods will have been sacrificed for little effect.”

Earlier this week Trade associations issued a desperate plea to Government for urgent comprehensive pub support package in light of the escalating crisis

The British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping have joined forces with CAMRA, the Independent Family Brewers of Britain (IFBB), UKHospitality and Pub is The Hub to issue a final pre-Christmas plea to the Government, backed by Tom Kerridge, for an improved package of support to ensure Britain’s pubs can make it through the most challenging of winters.

The trade associations say that the average pub would expect to take £47,000 in December. Much of this would see them through January and February when trade is typically quieter. With 85% closed or unviable now, and the likelihood of an extended period of full closure and tighter restrictive measures, the certainty provided by a proper financial support and economic bridge to the Spring is critical for the survival of thousands of pubs.

Even factoring in existing levels of support, the average community pub in England is still haemorrhaging £5,000 per month in ongoing costs* with a further £4,000 cost every time they shut down and re-open. The existing grants to English pubs, unfortunately are not anywhere near enough to cover these. To make matters worse, many pubs have yet to receive these current grants, creating unsustainable pressure on cash-flow and risking further job losses.