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On-trade reopening needs ‘phased approach’

Trade body UK Hospitality is urging the government to follow a six-point plan to help businesses reopen following the coronavirus pandemic, or risk the loss of one million jobs.

Kate Nicholls: “Hospitality is a sector built around socialising”

UK Hospitality warned that one million jobs could be lost due to an extended period of social distancing unless a number of measures are implemented to support the hospitality sector.

On Monday (21 April), UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls gave evidence at the House of Commons Treasury Committee where she detailed the problems being faced by hospitality firms that have been severely impacted by the covid-19 pandemic.

During yesterday’s (22 April) daily coronavirus conference, the UK’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty suggested that social-distancing measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus could remain in place for the rest of the year.

UK Hospitality wrote to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove MP yesterday with a six-point plan to help hospitality businesses reopen after the crisis. 

Nicholls said: “With social distancing measures still in place, reopening the hospitality sector without a plan would be catastrophic.

“The hospitality sector was one of the first hit by the crisis and the hardest hit in terms of lost revenue. It will also be one of the last to fully emerge from the lockdown.

“An extended period of social distancing will mean that many hospitality businesses will not be able to operate fully, and many will not be able to open at all. Hospitality is a sector built around socialising, so there must to be government support for businesses that continue to be hit by this crisis.”

Last week (19 April), Gove said the UK hospitality sector would be among the last to exit the lockdown measures in the UK once it is safe to do so.

‘Phased approach’

The letter detailed that hospitality firms would be unable to operate profitably while implementing social  distancing measures and highlighted the diversity and variety of business models across the sector.

The trade group is calling for a “phased approach” to prevent a “yo-yo effect” of openings and closings which could see companies fail and cause the loss of up to one million jobs.

Nicholls added: “We need a plan of phased opening for our sector. For those businesses that can trade safely with social distancing measures still in place, they should be able to.

“For the many venues where it is not possible, support, such as the furlough scheme, must be extended to make sure these businesses stay alive and jobs kept open. We can’t have a situation where, overnight, the entire sector is suddenly expected to hit the ground running.”

The recommended six-point plan includes the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to beyond June for the hospitality industry, legislative mediation on rent payments and “improved” access to capital.

Other points on the plan include a comprehensive fiscal package to stimulate demand after the pandemic, an overhaul of business laws, and the guarantee of a “functioning and responsive” insurance market.

In other news, more than 100 bars, pubs and clubs are planning to take coordinated legal action against Hiscox Insurance for not paying business interruption insurance claims.

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