England bars and restaurants applaud lack of new Covid measures | Hotel industry
Hotel bosses have welcomed the news that the government has ruled out further restrictions on Covid in England ahead of the busy New Years Eve negotiation period.
Companies had called for certainty, with bars and restaurants saying they had been left in limbo at a time of potentially lucrative reservations – or costly cancellations.
Industry feared Boris Johnson and ministers would toughen Covid-19 measures in England, after the Omicron variant led to an increase in Covid infections.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have already imposed stricter Covid rules on physical distancing and the number of people who can meet, including closing nightclubs.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, the industry body, said confirmation by Health Secretary Sajid Javid that no further crackdowns would come in England before the start of 2022 was good new for business.
She said the government had taken a “pragmatic and proportionate approach” which “would give a real lifeline to many of those who have struggled with the loss of trade in the run-up to Christmas.”
She added: “Losing the New Year in December would have been devastating, and keeping restrictions to a minimum helps protect businesses and jobs.”
Possible restrictions ministers have reportedly considered, including advice to households not to mix indoors, would have been a lockdown aside from the name, she said “with trade pushed to unsustainable levels.”
Martin Wolstencroft, CEO of ARC Inspirations, which operates 18 bars in the north of England, said it would be “fantastic for the industry” to have no more restrictions.
Speaking before the PM confirmed there would be no changes, he said certainty was needed for “our managers and staff, our clients – who want to know if they can meet their loved ones -” and the entire supply chain “.
He had planned that his bars would be open and had already placed orders, as he said it was not possible to leave everything at the last minute.
“It’s a very, very profitable time for everyone – it’s when we make the money that gets us through January,” he said.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (Nita), which represents bars, pubs, nightclubs, restaurants and entertainment venues, said the decision came after “a few extremely worried weeks for our industry”, but he was glad the PM had listened.
He said, “Our industry can now begin to plan with some certainty over the next week and make up for lost time promoting one of the key nights of the year in the coming days.
“It is important that, given this opportunity, we continue to recognize our responsibility to the public health strategy and urge our clients not only to support us during this time, but also to play their part in ensuring that it is the start of our recovery. “
On Twitter, Nita called the announcement “amazing news”, saying, “The New Year is on !!”
Kill said a longer term strategy was needed, adding: “It is clear that the open and close strategy, which has had a huge impact on our industry, is not sustainable.”
Others echoed the call for more clarity. Speaking ahead of Javid’s comments, Paul Askew, the head chef of the Art School restaurant in Liverpool, said his business was ‘eroded’ by announcements that had caused anxiety and the cancellation of large group bookings .
“This procrastination in the middle may serve political convenience but not business recovery and confidence,” he said.
“The government needs to make it clear to consumers that it is safe to go out, or if it isn’t, put a circuit breaker in place and compensate all businesses involved.”
Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, said Johnson needs to provide “much more clarity on what his government will do in the near future, and longer term… there is an urgent need to support public spaces to improve ventilation and air quality, with structured and intelligent public investments.
A £ 1billion emergency scheme of business grants and sickness benefit aid announced last week by Rishi Sunak has aroused the ire of hotel bosses, who have said that was not enough after the pre-Christmas trade collapse.
Nicholls reaffirmed the warning on Monday, adding: “Without further rate relief and a lower VAT rate to support jobs, businesses will fail and jobs will be lost.”