The Government’s new, tighter tier system is at best a restrictive straitjacket and at worst a lockdown in all but name for hospitality businesses, according to UKHospitality.
The trade body has warned that the measures, which will see businesses in tier 3 permitted to provide takeaway only and those in tier 2 restricted to substantial meals, will lead to permanent closures and job losses.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “The Government is making a point of saying that these measures are needed in order to save Christmas. In reality, they are killing Christmas and beyond for many businesses and their customers who look forward to, and rely on, venues being open at this time of year. Sadly, for many staff, it will be a Christmas out of work.
“If there needs to be a tightening of restrictions, it should not come at the expense of hospitality. Only a small fraction of cases have been linked to our businesses and venues have shown that they can provide safe environments for customers and staff. If the Government pursues this course of action, it is going to mean permanent closures and job losses.
“Tier 3 will be lockdown in everything but name for hospitality and will leave businesses almost no room for manoeuvre. With household mixing still not permitted, businesses in tier 2 are going to find revenues severely slashed at a crucial time for the sector.
“Immediate financial support must now be rapidly increased as many businesses will be forced to close, in some cases permanently. Our member survey has shown the current Tier 3 restrictions, which will now effectively apply to Tier 2 areas, will see 94% of hospitality businesses operate at a loss or simply become unviable. The new Tier 3 simply means no chance of trading out of this. Government must also confirm that the increased State Aid cap of €3m will be applied – as this is preventing the distribution of grants to tens of thousands of businesses employing nearly a million people.
“Adding a degree of flexibility to the mandatory curfew will help with dispersal of customers, but it doesn’t change the fact that businesses won’t be able generate revenues after 10pm.
“The big stumbling block for businesses is the lack of household mixing. This will be a huge hit that will be felt all the harder because it is almost Christmas. The Government could throw the sector a lifeline if it adopted the Welsh model of limited household mixing to let people socialise safely without jeopardising public or business health.”
The Government’s damning roadmap out of the lockdown for hospitality (in England) follows fresh Europe-wide research from YouGov suggesting that the UK population feels most able to adhere to social distancing and other COVID-safety requirements in hospitality venues versus other out-of-home settings. The survey of 2,269 adults in the UK found that 14% of the public found it difficult to distance in restaurants, bars and cafes versus 51% in retail settings, 29% in shopping centres and 27% on public transport.
It also found that the vast majority of people’s priority safeguards were being matched in hospitality, with most members of the public prioritising spread-out seating, hand sanitiser, and other good hygiene practises, plus servers and guests wearing face masks.