By Johan de Jager, General Manager UK, Brigad (https://brigad.co/en-GB/)
The pandemic has been truly devastating for hospitality.The rules have been unclear, unfair and often quite frankly baffling. One of the most perplexing decisions made was the 10pm curfew introduced by the government a few weeks ago.The curfew has had both disastrous economic consequences and a counter-productive effect on the spread of the virus. Since this was introduced, sales at pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK have fallen by more than a third compared to this same period last year. Cases of the virus have also increased, which seems unsurprising given that consumers are forced out onto the streets and onto public transport at exactly the same time – and are often easily persuaded to carry on socialising in each other’s homes.
Now the industry faces a further significant blow – the local Covid alert levels and three-tiered restriction system.While venues are still allowed to remain open in some of the UK’s major cities, the 10pm cur- few, the restrictions on travel and banning the mixing of households makes recovering an even greater challenge.
What appears to add insult to injury is the fact that the government claims to be basing these decisions on scientific data, but proof of this data is lacking. Hospitality venues are responsible for very little transmission of the virus compared to other aspects of daily life that have been allowed to continue with fewer restrictions. Schools and universities, for example, are seeing cases surge and while it’s understood that minimising disruption of education is important, it’s clear that these are significant areas of concern.The hospitality sector is one of the best prepared industries in terms of health and safety – sanitation, ventilation and social distancing measures are strictly enforced and there has been a huge amount of investment poured into making businesses safe and Covid-secure.Venues are subject to large fines if found to be in breach of the new rules, so ensuring compliance is, in many cases, essential.We are seeing no reductions in virus transmission as a result of the restrictions put in place so far, which suggests that they are not having the desired effect and are instead crippling an industry desperately trying to get back on its feet.
With this in mind, it’s feels completely unreasonable for hospitality to be so penalised financially.The industry shouldn’t be suffocated by restrictions that will cause irreparable damage.The demand from consumers is clearly there – people are desperate for life to return to normal and to be able to socialise with others outside of their household. Having Covid-secure hospitality venues allows the population to enjoy some form of normality safely. However, the restrictions enforced on consumers and on venues at the moment means many are often operating at a loss and that could make trading in future impossible.
The action taken by the government yesterday to financially support businesses within tier restricted areas is a very welcome start.With the industry soon to be faced with the end of the furlough scheme along- side a lack of financial support towards rent and fixed costs, this grant will no doubt be a lifeline for many businesses. However, there still needs to be an immediate review of unnecessary restrictions such as the 10pm curfew, and its likely many more jobs have already been lost due to the delay of this support being granted.There is a second small window of opportunity to further decelerate the speed at which we are heading towards disaster for the industry and the wider economy, the effects of which will be felt for many years to come.