Industry reacts to latest COVID-19 restrictions

Industry reacts to latest COVID-19 restrictions

Trade bodies have been responding to the prime minister’s announcement that further measures will be implemented from Monday to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Government will be making it mandatory for people to provide their details when visiting pubs to support NHS Test and Trace.

In his speech, the prime minister also confirmed that the maximum number of people who can gather together will reduce from 30 to six, although this will exclude single households and support bubbles consisting already of more than six people and some exclusions.

Here is how the trade bodies reacted:

James Calder, SIBA chief executive

“While it is imperative that we tackle the spread of COVID-19, the hospitality industry is still in a fragile state having taken the first few steps to start to rebuild over the summer, with small independent breweries who rely on pub beer sales some of the hardest hit. Even with pubs, bars and restaurants having been allowed to reopen, like-for-like July sales for small breweries have been down 50% and every week over the summer we have seen at least two small breweries closing for good.

“No one wants these small steps to be the last and if further restrictions are introduced, it is imperative that the government provides the full support these small independent businesses need. For small breweries they need access to the full package of support already given to pubs including the business rate holiday and an extension of furlough. The government should also scrap its plans to raise the amount of beer duty small breweries will have to pay under its proposed changes to Small Brewers Relief which is threatening businesses and creating additional uncertainty at a very challenging time.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA

“It is important to understand that the changes to social gatherings announced will have an immediate cooling effect on public confidence to go out and visit our pubs. And will have a direct impact on trade that will be felt hard across an industry that is already struggling to get back on its feet. At such a delicate point in our recovery after a steady start this summer, as we head into autumn and winter where we expect trade to already slow down, this is very concerning.

“With the announcements made today pubs and breweries will need much more support from the government if they are to survive. An extension on business rates relief, continuation of the VAT cut to food and soft drinks, a sector-specific furlough extension and a significant beer duty cut are needed now.

“Our sector will continue to play a leading role in supporting test and trace, and all our members and the overwhelming majority of pubs across the UK are already using the test and trace system. We implore any pub not confident on if they are following the existing or new rules correctly to get in touch with us or one of the many trade associations out there who will be happy to help.”

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality

“The prime minister’s statement represents a further shift towards hospitality businesses to act to protect public health. This is a challenge that the sector has already grasped and will redouble efforts to achieve, in the interest of customers and staff, and to minimise the risk of further lockdowns.

“This will, of course, be more easily achieved with the cooperation of customers, so the measures to make clear the responsibility of individuals was equally welcome. Any fines charged against hospitality venues for breaching Covid-secure requirements must be proportionate and pertain to factors wholly under the control of the venue.

“Mr Johnson said that a later announcement will be made regarding a review of other types of gatherings, such as business conferences, and we strongly urge that any such announcement also includes the roadmap for a return to trade for nightclubs, for which we have long been asking.”

With regard to the chief secretary’s statement in the House of Commons, announcing grants for forcibly closed venues and criteria for furlough extension considerations, Nicholls adds:

“It is reassuring that the government has recognised the damage closures will cause businesses. The grants would cover some costs, but more detail is needed to properly assess the benefit. For example, in Bolton at present, venues can open as takeaways, so presumably are not being forcibly closed, making them ineligible for the grants. This cannot be right.

“On furlough, the chief secretary said three questions remain unanswered in terms of targeted support. Since the pandemic broke, it has become inarguably clear that hospitality is justifiably front of the queue for inclusion, and our supply chain benefits from our recovery. We realise, of course, that any employment support cannot be open-ended but, based on the rate of recovery of the sector thus far, we would propose a potential winding down at the end of Q1 2021, as the sector looks forward to the summer season.”