Pub and hospitality bosses have urged the Government to reintroduce tax cuts, furlough and business grants amid fears that new Plan B restrictions will deliver a “devastating” blow to the industry.
Trade bodies and businesses expressed dismay after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a series of new coronavirus curbs will be enforced.
These measures will include an extension of mask-wearing from Friday, a return to working from home on Monday, and mandatory Covid passports for large venues from Wednesday.
Bosses have highlighted that work-from-home guidance and vaccine passports will have a particular impact during the key Christmas period on retail, hospitality and leisure firms which have been battered by the pandemic for the past two years.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UKHospitality trade group, said the measures “risk devastating the hospitality sector amid its most important time of the year”.
She added: “We therefore desperately need support if we are to survive this latest set of restrictions and urge the Government to stand behind our industry.
“That means full business rates relief, grants, rent protection and extended VAT reductions. Anything less would prove catastrophic.”
The Plan B announcement will significantly impact consumer confidence & be particularly devastating to city & town centre venues. As such, they risk devastating the hospitality sector amid its most important time of year.
Read our full statement here: https://t.co/xxqV3mvopa
— UKHospitality (@UKHofficial) December 8, 2021
Firms have seen business rates support heavily reduced in recent months, while VAT across a raft of hospitality products increased from 5% to 12.5% at the start of October and is set to return to 20% in April.
Chris Soley, chief executive of North East-based brewer and pub group Camerons Brewery, said on social media that he has seen cancellations come “thick and fast” since the new restrictions were announced, and joined the call for support.
He tweeted: “Cancellations coming in thick and fast. This is like early March 2020 when people were told not to got to the pub but we had no support.
“Urgent government grants, rates, furlough, extended VAT and rates support needed.
“Our sector needed Christmas to try and recover.”
Cancellations coming in thick and fast @UKHospKate @beerandpub this is like early March 20 when people were told not to go to the pub but we had no support. Urgent government grants, rates, furlough, extended VAT and rates support needed. Our sector needed Xmas to try and recover
— Chris Soley (@chrissoley) December 9, 2021
Elsewhere, Jeremy Joseph, owner of the G-A-Y nightclub, said there has been more “nervousness” about going out in the last couple of weeks since concerns about the Omicron variant emerged.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I feel like I’m constantly walking on eggshells and in survival mode.”
Mr Joseph said the new restrictions “don’t make any sense”, pointing out that he has three venues and each venue will have different rules.
“It makes no sense. It’s as if this Government thinks that Covid will go ‘That venue has a capacity of under 500 so I won’t go in there’,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) also warned that leisure firms should ”not be thrown under the bus” with restrictions which will hit the recovering sector.
"NTIA React to Reports the Government’s Plan B Including Vaccine Passports for Large Venues is Imminent"
— Night Time Industries Association (@wearethentia) December 8, 2021
The trade body’s chief executive, Michael Kill, said: “The pre-Christmas period is absolutely crucial for our sector and reports today that Plan B, including vaccine passports, will have a devastating impact on a sector already so bruised by the pandemic.
“The Government’s own report on the subject concluded that vaccine passports wouldn’t even have a significant impact on virus transmission.
“You do, therefore, have to question the timing and rationale for this announcement.
“Is this sound, evidence-based public policy-making, or is this an attempt to move the news agenda on from a damaging story about the Downing Street Christmas party?
“Nightclubs and bars must not be thrown under the bus for the Prime Minister to save his own skin.”