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Hospitality in ‘sinkhole of financial difficulty’

The night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester has urged the UK government to rethink energy support for the hospitality sector in the wake of the budget announcement.

Energy bills support was not mentioned in the spring budget last week

Last week (15 March), members of the spirits trade expressed their disappointment in the UK government’s spring budget, after support for businesses in light of rising energy bills was omitted from the economic plan altogether.

The trade said the budget “falls short” of the support the industry needs.

Lord said: “I was disappointed last week that further energy support for business was not mentioned in the chancellor’s budget.

“The tapering off of business energy support from the end of March has been forecasted to add £4.5 billion to bills compared to the current scheme, and simply put, this will place the industry in an unsustainable predicament and create a sinkhole of financial difficulty for venues across the sector.”

In February, Lord said that the chancellor should “rethink business energy support” ahead of the spring budget, as at its current rate it will lead to “the inevitable closure of swathes of cultural and leisure venues across the UK”.

More than a quarter (27%) of Scotch whisky distillers believe energy costs will double in 2023, a survey revealed in February. Furthermore, some distilleries are exempt from the government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme, according to the Scotch Whisk Association (SWA).

Lord continued: “I urge the government and treasury to reconsider its level of support for the UK’s fifth largest industry to avoid these unnecessary closures and job losses.”

Birmingham-based The Pineapple Club was forced to close due to rising energy bills contributing to its demise in February.

Manchester’s hospitality sector rebound

However, new research carried out by Manchester Bid, the city centre improvement district managed by CityCo, has found Manchester’s footfall in March increased 5.8% year-on-year, double the national average at 2.4%.

Pointing towards a return to pre-pandemic levels, figures revealed that the total number of visitors to the city centre for the year to date is 6.2 million, which is an increase of 27.3% from the same time last year.

Lord said: “I am pleased that the city centre tourism is performing well, and this data proves the strength and attraction of Greater Manchester as a whole.

“The city-region was the hardest hit during the pandemic and has bounced back to become one of the strongest regions in the UK for economic recovery. We all know the trials and tribulations the hospitality industry has faced in the past three years, and these figures are testament to the motivation and hard work of the operators across the region.

“While footfall in the city centre and across our urban boroughs is above expectations, there is still a long way to go. Small and medium businesses must remain supported.”

Footfall on Saturday 11 March was up 49.4% on 2019 figures, when the city welcomed over 124,000 visitors in comparison to 70,605 in the same week four years ago.

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