Clarity and support needed as lockdown end looms

Clarity and support needed as lockdown end looms

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has highlighted the need for further significant support for hospitality following the impact of the second national lockdown, along with urgent clarity on the tier system businesses will enter upon reopening.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons BEIS Committee this week, Nicholls (pictured) pointed out that even with the prospect of the end of national lockdown this December, restrictions have already had a devastating impact on businesses in what would have been for many their most profitable quarter – with some operators banking as much as 40% of their annual profits between Halloween and January. This comes at the end of a year which has seen the annual turnover of the hospitality sector drop by 40%, over 600,000 job losses and business confidence plummet.

On leaving lockdown, Nicholls said to the committee venues have had precious little time in which to digest and implement the rules that the government is introducing.

“It is imperative that businesses are given the maximum amount of time ahead of reopening, to prepare for the tier that they will be entering,” she says. “This needs to be transparent and clear, with clear guidance available for moving between the tiers.

“We also require detailed guidance on the restrictions. Over recent measures, hospitality businesses have had six different changes on the conditions under which they can operate in the last eight weeks. This puts pressure on all businesses, but particularly SMEs in the sector. We need to know for certain what we will be facing over Christmas and New Year.”

UK-wide, UKHospitality estimates that sector cash burn during lockdown will be close to £500m.

On support for the sector, Nicholls spoke of the need for continued support through 2021. Key areas of support for the hospitality sector are a Rent Moratoria Extension, VAT reduction extension beyond March, emergency clarification of CJRS Bonus black hole, realistic grant support that reflects the true cost of closure and support on state aid limits.