Restaurants, pubs and hotels forced to shut their doors for a month from Thursday are likely to need more support than was given during the first lockdown, UK Hospitality has warned.
Prime minister Boris Johnson last night ordered the industry to close for four weeks from 5 November as the government bids to get control of Covid-19 and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. Takeaway and delivery services are exempt from the ruling.
The lockdown is a massive blow for a sector that has done everything in its power to reopen safely and was already facing losses from the tiered restrictions and 10pm curfew.
Kate Nicholls, CEO of trade body UK Hospitality, said public health objectives were, rightly, the motive for the new measures, and for that reason her organisation entirely supports whatever proportionate action is necessary.
But she warned the costs to hospitality businesses of a second lockdown will be even heavier than the first, coming after periods of forced closure, the accumulation of mass debt and then significantly lower trading due to the restrictions of recent weeks.
“The sector was hit hardest and first, and this recent shutdown will hurt for months and years to come. The extension of furlough for a further month does help to protect our workforce during this difficult time.
“If hospitality, the sector that is our country’s third largest employer, is to survive and help drive economic recovery, it will need equivalent – or more – support than that of the first lockdown.
“Hospitality businesses have already been pushed to the limits, with many closures already. For those that have survived, viability is on a knife edge, as is the future of the tens of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on hospitality, including through its supply chain, right across the country.”
Ms Nicholls said it was critical that businesses are given a lifeline to survive the winter, before being given the support to enter a revival phase in 2021, as the nation’s prospects improve.
“A clear roadmap out of lockdown and through the tiers will also be vital for businesses to plan their survival, and the safeguarding of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
“It is important to remember that some parts of hospitality, such as nightclubs, have not even been allowed to re-open. The support for those, now that potential reopening has been kicked further into the future, must be redoubled to ensure that they are not lost forever.”