The hospitality industry last night blasted the Prime Minister’s ‘absurd’ move to delay Freedom Day, warning that many businesses will go under without fresh help.
Pub and restaurant bosses also warned of thousands of job losses and a £1 billion-a-week cost to the industry of persisting with social distancing measures. They pleaded with Boris Johnson not to leave the UK in ‘Never Never Land’.
The sector faces losing crucial sales in the middle of the peak summer season as the new Freedom Day is pushed back four weeks to beyond the end of the Euro 2020 football tournament on July 11.
Last night, there was no sign of more government help – or of any changes to the furlough scheme, which will require employers to start paying some of their furloughed workers’ wages from next month.
It comes as the boss of Greene King Nick Mackenzie said the four-week delay to the roadmap will wipe off £1million in sales every time England play in the European Championships
Rolling lockdowns and 15 months of closures have already cost the hospitality industry £87 billion in lost sales, and reduced the number of people working in the sector by 660,000. There are 25,000 venues unable to open, 300,000 staff on furlough, and business owe £6 billion in rent they haven’t been able to pay during the pandemic.
Four more weeks ‘catastrophic’ for clubs
The closure of nightclubs for another four weeks will be ‘catastrophic’ for the sector, an industry expert warned last night.
Michael Kill, of the Night Time Industries Association, said it ‘feels like we are being sidelined’, while a lack of confidence is ‘crucifying us’.
He told the Mail recent polling suggested one in four nightclubs would not survive more than a month without support. ‘That would go up to two in four if they look to extend it to eight weeks. This constant limbo is just killing people – it’s striking a huge imbalance in terms of confidence,’ he said. Restrictions on nightclubs for another four weeks are expected to cost the industry £97million in sales. Some companies said sales are still down as much as 80 per cent.
Mike Cherry, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said many nightclubs had been ‘led up the garden path’ and had already spent thousands on stock for the now cancelled June 21 reopening.
Furious business leaders demanded Chancellor Rishi Sunak step in and announce a new support package.
UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘Businesses need a swift, publicly stated commitment that support will be in place, giving them much-needed reassurance after more than 15 months of closure and severely disrupted trading.’
Pizza Express entrepreneur Hugh Osmond said: ‘It is outrageous that they are delaying it a month, when daily deaths are in the single figures. There is a complete lack of understanding by the Government of the human issues involved.
‘The nightclubs who were all expecting to open, those pubs whose businesses haven’t been viable for over a year. Each and every one of those is a livelihood – how do you balance 100,000 jobs against a handful of deaths?’
Julian Metcalfe, founder of Pret a Manger and Itsu, added: ‘Our industry and many other businesses on the high street have been decimated. There are a great many companies that have now been thrown into absolute chaos. The Government should respect the data.’
Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Shepherd Neame pubs, said: ‘Any delay in lifting restrictions must be accompanied with certainty that they will end absolutely and irrevocably at the end of this four-week period. If we remain permanently in Never Never Land, business and consumer confidence will be broken.’
Hotelier Sir Rocco Forte said the delay was ‘absurd’, adding: ‘Four weeks make a hell of a difference to a lot of businesses when they’re losing money. The infections are going up but it doesn’t matter, because it’s all in the young who aren’t dying.’
Mark Littlewood, director-general at Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘The Government aren’t just moving the goalposts. They are playing a wholly different sport. The economic cost of postponing Freedom Day could amount to £1 billion a week. Many pubs, restaurants, bars and other venues are at a breaking point.’
Pub and restaurant bosses also warned of thousands of job losses and a £1 billion-a-week cost to the industry
The closure of nightclubs for another four weeks will be ‘catastrophic’ for the sector, Michael Kill, of the Night Time Industries Association warned
Mr Sunak has rejected calls to extend the furlough scheme. From July 1, businesses will be asked to contribute 10 per cent of their staff’s wages, while the Government’s share falls to 70 per cent, before the scheme ends on September 30. The business rates holiday will also end on June 30, reducing the relief from 100 per cent to 67 per cent.
Labour MP Darren Jones, chairman of the Commons business committee, said: ‘The idea that businesses who have worked so hard to be ready for June 21 shouldn’t be helped [with extended support] for just a few more weeks is a scandal. I thought the Conservatives were supposed to be the party of business?’
The Treasury said: ‘We deliberately went long with our support to provide certainty over the coming months. The furlough scheme and support for the self-employed is in place until September and eligible businesses will continue to benefit from business rates relief of 75 per cent over the year, VAT cuts and the recovery loan scheme.’
Stop kicking can down the road, pubs tell PM
Landlady Caron Williams said the By Business Correspondent Prime Minister ‘must not keep kicking the can down the road’ after he delayed Freedom Day by a month.
The mother-of-four, 56, rescued The Star Inn with her husband in their home village of Sparsholt, Oxfordshire, nine years ago after it almost went bust.
She is now worried the end of the warm weather will drive her business below the point of breaking- even again, as the one-metre social distancing rule means ‘restricting tables like mad’.
Landlady Caron Williams (pictured) said the By Business Correspondent Prime Minister ‘must not keep kicking the can down the road’
Mrs Williams said: ‘Boris will have to draw a line under it at some point. At some point they have to have the confidence to say we know rates are going to go up, but almost everyone is vaccinated. We have to crack on.
‘It’s fine to delay to get more data – but we mustn’t go backwards and they mustn’t keep hanging these restrictions over us for another four weeks.
‘People have been disappointed so many times and it’s tricky operationally at the moment with staffing. We want to avoid at all costs going backwards, but we’ve all got to learn to live with this thing. I will feel very differently if the can keeps being kicked down the road.’
In response to the changing restrictions she has invested more than £15,000, including splashing out on a Bedouin tent for the beer garden, an Argentinian barbecue and an outdoor pizza oven.
It comes as the boss of Greene King said the four-week delay to the roadmap will wipe off £1million in sales every time England play in the European Championships.
Chief executive Nick Mackenzie said it was ‘extremely disappointing’ and predicted the brewer, which has 3,000 pubs, would lose £12million on match days in total.
Mr Mackenzie said: ‘A month is a lot to this industry when it’s trying to get on its feet, and it will mean people will either have to remain