One year on from the first lockdown, a shattered industry calls for the Government to be guided by “data not dates” and ease restrictions
Exactly a year since the first national lockdown, UKHospitality has revealed the terrible toll of the Covid-19 pandemic on a devastated sector that has experienced more than eight months of closure, costing more than 600,000 jobs, 12,000 business failures and lost sales of £86bn.
With only a minority of pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and leisure facilities being able to trade outdoors from 12 April, the trade association is warning that closure for the vast majority of operators is due to last another nine weeks until 17 May, when indoor hospitality is permitted to reopen.
This delay means even more jobs are in danger and even more businesses are facing ruin. Until restrictions are lifted, pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and leisure facilities will not be able to break even and, with the expectation that consumer confidence will take time to recover, trading is unlikely to return to anything like normal levels for at least six months.
UKHospitality says that it’s critical that the Westminster Government sticks to its plans for a full removal of restrictions no later than 21 June. However, with the continued success of the vaccination programme and hospitalisations and fatalities continuing to decline, the industry is urging the Government to follow the “data not dates” and loosen the restrictions that are in place at different stages of the roadmap.
UKHospitality is therefore urging the Government to allow:
- Hotels with self-contained rooms to be able to open alongside other self-contained accommodation on 12 April
- Earlier re-opening of children’s indoor play areas (currently set for 17 May)
- People to be able to order via a hatch or outdoor till on outdoor re-opening in April
- People to be able to order at the bar from indoor opening in May, and for customers to be allowed to consume drinks while standing outdoors
- Covid- secure weddings and receptions indoors from April, with an increase in guest numbers from May 17 in line with sporting and other events
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “The last 12 months have been truly awful for our sector. That is why any controls that limit commercial activity upon reopening should be necessary and proportionate and we back the recent call from the Public Accounts Committee for the Government to provide the evidence for such limits. While any restrictions remain in place, our pubs and restaurants can only break even and the viability of thousands remains at risk – we lost over 12,000 in the last year alone.
“Hospitality can lead economic recovery in the UK, providing jobs to people who have lost them and
continuing to serve those most in need in communities all over the country. To do this however, we need to be able to operate without being strangled by restrictions.
“We also urge the Government to look again at some areas of support it introduced in the Budget, in
particular the business rates cap, which unfairly penalises a large proportion of hospitality businesses who will find themselves paying full rates just days after restrictions are fully lifted in June. That cannot be right, and we urge ministers to think again.”