More help needed as bars approach ‘point of no return’

13th October, 2020 by Melita Kiely

Many hospitality businesses are ‘quickly reaching the point of no return’ and urgently need additional financial support, UK Hospitality has warned, as new restrictions were announced for England in response to rising Covid-19 cases.

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The on-trade in England is facing new restrictions as the government reacts to the rise in Covid-19 cases

Yesterday (12 October), UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced a new three-tier system for England in his battle against Covid-19, ranging from tier one (medium) and tier two (high) to tier three (very high).

Tier one includes measures such as the widely criticised 10pm curfew for bars and restaurants. The restrictions get progressively stricter moving up the tiers, with tier three meaning all pubs and bars must close, with the exception of restaurants, and pubs that can operate as restaurants, which are permitted to stay open.

The measures will come into force on Wednesday 14 October, with Liverpool put in the highest tier. The government will pay employees who cannot work 67% of their salaries up to £2,100 (around US$2,740) a month, UK chancellor Rishi Sunak announced last week.

However, trade bodies are calling for additional support to help venues survive tougher restrictions, or risk mass job losses and business closures.

Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality chief executive, said: “The impact of all of these restrictions is huge and we are quickly reaching the point of no return for many businesses.

“For those businesses in tier three areas, forced to close their doors again, things look bleak but the support announced last week for closed businesses will hopefully give them the breathing room they need to survive another lockdown.

“There is currently a concerning lack of support on offer for hospitality businesses in tier two, and to a lesser extent tier one, despite their facing restrictions that is seeing trade down by between 40% to 60%. They will have the worst of both worlds, operating under significant restrictions without the financial support on offer to tier three businesses. Without enhanced grant support and enhanced government contributions to the Job Support Scheme, many are going to fall by the wayside.

“It is time for the government, at the very least, to rethink the mandatory 10pm curfew on those areas where Covid rates are low. It was imposed without credible evidence that hospitality is the source of increases in transmission, while some evidence points the other way. To leave hospitality out to dry would be a grave and risky move and would cost many people their jobs.”

Legal action

Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester in England, has launched legal proceedings to challenge the UK government’s impending lockdown of hospitality and entertainment venues across the north of England.

It comes as the latest data from Public Health England continues to show that food outlet and restaurants continue to relate to a very small percentage of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

In the week ending 4 October, the number of new acute respiratory incidents (ARI) in England was 918. Of these, 30 incidents were from food outlet or restaurant settings, and 24 had at least one linked case that tested positive for Covid-19 – meaning only 2.6% of Covid-19 cases were linked to on-trade settings.

For comparison, educational settings created the highest rates of Covid-19 cases with 252 incidents, followed by workplace settings at 132 cases. Care homes also reported 172 ARI incidents in total, where 116 had at least one linked case that tested positive for Covid-19.

Lord revealed in a post on LinkedIn that he had engaged judicial lawyers to begin a judicial review into the legality of the emergency restrictions due to be imposed on the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

Lord is leading the legal action, which is being backed by numerous associations and companies, including The Night Time Industries Association, The British Beer and Pub Association, The Alchemist bar and Atlas Bar, to name just a few.

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