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'The grants don't match reality' – pubs rebuke Rishi Sunak's £1bn offer

A ripped money bag
A ripped money bag

Pubs and restaurants have rebuked Rishi Sunak’s £1bn leisure and hospitality grant scheme after customers stayed at home en masse this week.

Firms across Britain have seen business drop by as much as 60pc in the vital run up to Christmas after fears over the omicron variant cut footfall dramatically.

Yesterday the Treasury announced that pubs, restaurants and leisure businesses will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000 “in the coming weeks”.

Small firms have warned the measures do not go far enough.

December is usually the busiest month of the year for Miranda Richardson, landlady of the Live & Let Live pub in Northampton, compensating for a traditionally quiet January for the hospitality sector.

But this year apprehension around the omicron variant means bookings have fallen and cancellations are the norm.

In the weekend before Christmas in 2019, the pub took £11,500. This year that figure plummeted to £3,600.

“It has been horrendous," Ms Richardson said. "At the moment we have no bookings past Christmas Eve, people are scared and there is no continuity from the Government regarding restrictions. At the moment I can’t order anything in for New Year’s Eve.

“We will be entitled to £2,700 under the latest grants scheme – my weekly wage bill for bar and waiting staff alone is £1,000, and that doesn’t include chefs.

“Another £1,000 a month to keep the lights on, before we even get to rent, broadband, supplies. The grants just don’t match the reality."

Charles Edwards, co-landlord of The Boardwalk in Morecambe, said sales had “fallen off a cliff”.

He said: “We had a function booked for Sunday and they cancelled on the morning of, with all the food already ordered.

“We turned it into a community party so it didn’t go to waste and put all the food out for the regulars – but we still had the worst Sunday in the past eight months for takings."

The pub would struggle to survive without more support, he warned: “I have been so impressed with Rishi Sunak’s support packages in the past, but this latest grant will only cover losses over the last couple of weeks. If we are forced to close, there has to be more direct grants and wage support."

Paul Goodale, of restaurant chain PizzaLuxe, said the hospitality sector had been "decimated" last week after chief medical officer Chris Whitty told people to prioritise their social interactions.

Mr Goodale said: “We traded almost all the way through lockdown and it’s been one slog after the next. We were looking forward to a reasonable trade over Christmas, but that was kiboshed last week.

“Last weekend was terrible, and receiving these grants after the fact means we’ve already incurred those costs. The grants wouldn’t be enough for a full lockdown, which makes me hopeful they won’t introduce one, but isn’t really enough for the effects of the last week either.

“The hospitality sector has been decimated as a result of last week’s announcement and everyone is running on vapour.”