The hospitality sector has responded to Prime Minister Boris Johnson is broadcast to the nation in which he advised that some part of the hospitality sector could reopen at the beginning of July as part of the government’s plan to lift the United Kingdom out of the current coronavirus lockdown.
The Prime Minister announced that we will see a three step approach to lift Britain out of lockdown with phase 1 of his plan beginning this week (Wednesday, 13 May) which will allow the British public to take unlimited outdoor exercise, with non-contact sporting venues such as golf courses and tennis courts partially re-opened.
Phase 2 expected to be implemented during the first will see some shops open and primary school children return to school, phase 3 possibly from July 1 will see parts of the hospitality sector reopen.
Industry observers were quick to react:
Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, has this evening commented on the Prime Minister’s address to the nation regarding a phased route out of the Coronavirus lockdown.
The Prime Minister set out the basic requirements, approach and potential timescale for the return to work of many Britons, while clearly recognising that many types of businesses will take longer to return to trade.
Nicholls said “The Prime Minister gave us a sense of the shape of his plan and the journey ahead. Much detail will follow but the focus on saving lives, and saving livelihoods, is an important and positive basis for progress.
“Mr Johnson was explicit about his commitment to support those workers whose businesses are not able to return soon, and we remain committed to continuing our dialogue with the Government to achieve that. We have been calling for a more flexible, extended furlough system and today’s statement appears to leave the door open for that.
“UKHospitality has already been working up protocols for implementation in different parts of the sector, to allow venues to confidently open their doors when it is safe to do so. This is very much consistent with the approach of ‘Covid secure’ standards that the Prime Minister referenced. He recognised in his statement that some parts of business will be able to open and others won’t – we will work to ensure that the Government is well-placed to support those in hospitality that need longer, as well as on enabling those who are able to return.”
Des O’Flanagan, co-founder of PubAid, said: “The lockdown has resulted in pubs showing great resilience and resourcefulness. Many have put themselves firmly at the heart of their communities by offering food and drink for collection or delivery and providing social and emotional support with online quizzes, chats and music gigs.
“Their charitable role has continued with many pubs providing free meals for the elderly and homeless. There are many stories of these pub community heroes who are supporting their communities is all sorts of ways. Unfortunately, the closures mean that the £140m raised by pubs for charity and grassroots sport each year will be severely diminished in 2020.”
“It would be good to see the invaluable support that pubs are offering their communities reciprocated in support from Government, so that as many as possible can reopen their doors as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Nick Mackenzie, Greene King CEO, said: “We of course want to welcome back customers to our pubs as soon as we can, but the impact on our 38,000 people and our commitment to customer safety are our primary concerns. We are keen to avoid a false start and the support that the government has provided during the lockdown will also be needed during the recovery phase as maintaining social distancing will have a significant impact on pubs. We are working closely with our people and our tenants to put in place a reopening strategy that adheres closely to government guidance so that when we do open our doors again, it is with robust safety and hygiene measures in place for our team and customers.”
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “The industry was looking for a glimmer of hope today, a date to plan to and further financial support reassured, but it looks like we have more weeks of uncertainty ahead of us.
“With insufficient clarity as to when pubs will reopen, our sector remains in limbo and facing severe uncertainty and financial devastation. If Government plans to keep pubs closed until the final phase of release, as rumoured, this would make pubs first in and last out of lockdown.
“Despite this, the Government hasn’t outlined any specific additional financial support for pubs to assure and help them through the extended lockdown hardship they face. We understand that pubs should only open when safe to do so, but extending the lockdown without offering additional support will be devastating.
“Our own research shows that 40% of Britain’s pubs won’t survive beyond September with the current level of financial support on offer from the Government. That’s almost 19,000 pubs that won’t reopen. The Government must understand that the current financial support they are providing, although welcome, does not go anywhere near enough to cover pub’s costs through an extended lockdown. This is before we even consider an eventual reopening inevitably with vastly reduced revenue due to stringent social distancing restrictions in place.
“Without this specific additional financial support, the social hubs and heart of communities in many towns, villages and cities across the UK will be lost forever – resulting in immeasurable damage to the wellbeing of our nation. Our clear and urgent ask to the Government is that they recognise the real jeopardy facing the great British pub and put in place targeted measures now to save it, or risk losing local pubs forever.”