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On-trade urges UK govt to formally close venues

The UK government has come under fire for its “dangerous and cowardly” decision to not formally close pubs, bars and restaurants during the covid-19 outbreak as venues argue they cannot claim insurance if they shut voluntarily.

Hospitality industry has called for the UK government to formally close venues during the coronavirus pandemic

In the first daily televised coronavirus update in the UK yesterday (Monday 17 March), UK prime minister Boris Johnson warned the British public to avoid pubs, clubs and social venues in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases escalates.

Johnson advised the UK should stop non-essential contact with others and all unnecessary travel.

The hospitality industry is the third biggest sector in the UK. In response to Johnson’s announcement, more than 46,000 people have signed a petition calling on the UK government to “take responsibility and formally close venues if that is what is actually required, instead of effectively doing so without taking ownership”.

The petition said: “The coronavirus is a challenge and a tragedy in equal measure for this country, and we know how real the threat is to societies most vulnerable.

“All of us in hospitality wish to play our part in protecting those who need it and assisting in any way possible to see the country through these dark times.”

The petition also asks for clear support – financial and practical – laid out by the government for both staff and business owners alike.

“A decision from the government – because if we take the decision to close any form of insurance is no longer an option,” the petition said.

It also urged clarity for guests to ensure their safety and transparency on the timeline so businesses can prepare logistically and “rationally” for the coming months.

‘Catastrophic for businesses and jobs’

UK Hospitality, which represents all aspects of the industry from bars to coffee shops, warned the move would lead to “hundreds of thousands of job losses”.

Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality CEO, said: “This is catastrophic for businesses and jobs. The government has effectively shut the hospitality industry without any support, and this announcement will lead to thousands of businesses closing their doors for good, and hundreds of thousands of job losses.

“Over the past few weeks the industry has suffered unprecedented drops in visits and many business are already on their knees. This latest advice leaves the industry in limbo, with no recourse to insurance.

“The government must act now to stop them going under and protect the people’s jobs. These venues play a unique role as community hubs and it’s in all our interests to protect and preserve them so they are still there once we emerge from this crisis.

“We need immediate and far-reaching support from the government, and meaningful business continuity measures.”

On-trade venues have already gone into lockdown in Ireland until at least 29 March, affecting one of the biggest trading days of the year, St Patrick’s Day today (17 March).

Parts of the US, including New York, Washington and Los Angeles have also closed bars and nightclubs, with only pickup and takeaway from restaurants available.

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