Pub and hospitality trade bodies UKHospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping have written to the Chancellor and the Health Secretary, urging the government to ensure that any new lockdown measures are “targeted, proportional and accompanied by a credible financial support package”.
The request comes following the announcement of closures and restrictions in Scotland and ahead of anticipated lockdowns in the North of England to be announced on Monday.
Under proposals leaked in newspapers over the weekend, a new ‘three-tier’ system is set to be launched that will classify regions as being on ‘medium’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’ alert.
Pubs, gyms and casinos are among the businesses expected to be impacted by the top-level restrictions, with the situation to be reviewed after four weeks.
One newspaper said “hundreds of pubs” across the North West would be told to close from 5pm on Wednesday and would not reopen again until at least mid-November.
In the letter, the trade bodies have reiterated their support for the government’s approach to public health and have highlighted the efforts made by hospitality businesses to ensure their venues are secure.
The letter also highlights the disproportionately small number of Covid cases linked to hospitality.
The trade bodies support the introduction of a tiered system of restrictions, provided they are targeted, proportionate and implemented on a regional basis.
The criteria for different tiers must be communicated to businesses and consumers clearly and the bodies encourage the government to engage with them to ensure the measures are practical.
Crucially, any further restrictions or lockdowns must come with immediate financial support, supplemented by measures to support revival in 2021.
The trade bodies have recommended:
– A grant of 5% of the rateable value per week, uninhibited by State Aid rules or rateable value caps. This percentage could be lower for less severe restrictions
– Amendment of the Job Support Scheme to allow a reduced minimum number of hours worked for businesses under restrictions – for closed businesses this should be 0%, rising to 20% for mid-level restricted businesses
– Extension of the business rates holiday through 2021/22 with VAT remaining at 5% throughout 2021
– Support on the issue of unpaid rent – extension of current protections and Government engagement with industry on innovative solutions to bring landlords and tenants together to find a solution.
In a joint statement, the trade bodies said: “The cumulative effect of restrictions is already being felt by businesses and a tightening of those restrictions could be fatal if not done correctly. It is crucial that any further restrictions or lockdowns are implemented so as to allow businesses to survive and then rebuild afterwards.
“We are totally supportive of a tiered approach, implemented locally, which will put the health of the public first, but will also enable our sector, which has been devastated, to survive.
“If the government decides to implement this tiered strategy, it is vital that the terms of the new system are communicated clearly and quickly. We hope that the Government will also engage with us to ensure that any restrictions are proportionate, effective and avoid the potential for further business failures.
“Central to this working will be a comprehensive package of financial support to ensure that businesses survive and jobs kept secure. Our sector has been hit hardest of all by this crisis and we desperately want to avoid further catastrophe, while making sure public safety remains the priority.”