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Furlough extension welcome but rent must be new priority

Leading industry figures have welcomed UK chancellor Rishi Sunak’s extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme but warned two million jobs remain at risk without a solution to rent payments.

Bar owners in the UK are calling for a #NationalTimeOut to save thousands of hospitality businesses and millions of jobs

The UK government’s furlough scheme was due to end in July, but has now been extended to October.

The founder of Milk & Honey in Soho, London, and Hospitality Union, Jonathan Downey, took to Twitter to reiterate the message of his #NationalTimeOut initiative.

In a tweet addressed to Rishi Sunak, Downey said: “Thank you for the JRS [Job Retention Scheme] extension but if we don’t come up with a national solution to the impending rent apocalypse, 50% of businesses and two million jobs will be lost in hospitality by the end of the year. This must be your new priority.

“We need a #NationalTimeOut.”

David McDowall, chief operating officer at Brewdog, also took to the social media platform to stress the need for a #NationalTimeOut.

He said: “To @RishiSunak, a huge thank you for announcing the next stage of the JRS. Your next intervention is so crucial. You must support creation of a #NationalTimeOut to protect thousands of businesses and millions of jobs in hospitality.”

A National Time Out could save more than 2m jobs, says Downey


In the UK, the hospitality sector was ordered to shut on the evening of 20 March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government introduced a three-month rent forfeiture moratorium in March, which prevented landlords from repossessing commercial properties where tenants were unable to pay their rent.

However, Downey told The Spirits Business earlier this month that the feedback he’s received from the industry suggests the majority of landlords are still expecting the next rent instalment on 24 June in full.

The #NationalTimeOut campaign calls for a non-government-funded nine-month rent freeze for hospitality businesses until 2021.

It would also enable landlords to push their loan repayments back for nine months and extend each corresponding lease by nine months so that payments aren’t lost, merely postponed.

Physical distancing, not social distancing

Members of the on-trade community are also highlighting the importance of the language used around keeping your distance from members outside of your household during the pandemic.

In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it would be moving away from the term ‘social distancing’ in favour of ‘physical distancing’.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious diseases epidemiologist at the WHO, said: “You may have heard us use the phrase physical distancing instead of social distancing.

“Technology right now has advanced so greatly that we can keep connected in many ways without actually physically being in the same room or physically being in the same space with people.

“We’re changing to say physical distance and that’s on purpose because we want people to still remain connected.”

It is hoped the use of ‘physical distancing’ over ‘social distancing’ will help reinstate consumer confidence when on-trade establishments are allowed to reopen.

Downey said on Twitter: “Physical distancing is a much better description of what we mean. It’s WHO recommended and will help get our most social spaces – pubs, clubs, cafes, bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas – back to some kind of normal.”

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