Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned social distancing measures could last beyond this year, in a press conference earlier this week (Wednesday 22 April).
On the same day, UKH wrote to minister for the cabinet office Michael Gove, who said hospitality would be among the last areas to reopen, with a six-point plan to help the industry reopen following the crisis.
This included an extension of the furlough scheme beyond June; legislative intervention on rent payments; improved access to capital; a comprehensive fiscal package to stimulate demand after the crisis; overhaul of business regulation; and to guarantee a functioning and responsive insurance market.
UKH chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “With social distancing measures still in place, reopening the hospitality sector without a plan would be catastrophic.
“The hospitality sector was one of the first hit by the crisis and the hardest hit in terms of lost revenue. It will also be one of the last to fully emerge from the lockdown.
“An extended period of social distancing will mean that many hospitality businesses will not be able to operate fully, and many will not be able to open at all. Hospitality is a sector built around socialising, so there must to be Government support for businesses that continue to be hit by this crisis."
She added: “We need a plan of phased opening for our sector. For those businesses that can trade safely with social distancing measures still in place, they should be able to. For the many venues where it is not possible, support, such as the furlough scheme, must be extended to make sure these businesses stay alive and jobs kept open. We can’t have a situation where, overnight, the entire sector is suddenly expected to hit the ground running.
“If the correct support is not in made available to help businesses get back to work when the time is right, then businesses will have survived the immediate crisis only to find themselves out of business during the aftermath.”
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) boss Emma McClarkin said reopening pubs with social distancing restrictions will be “extremely difficult” for staff and customers alike.
She added: “It’s clear that the Government is going to need to give pubs special consideration for a restart, as well as specific support just for them.
“The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme must continue for pubs throughout their closure along with a ‘back-to-work’ scheme with the same level of support when they can reopen. Such measures will save jobs while the trade slowly recovers.
“Further extension of the grant support from Government for pubs, including the 10,000 pubs above the threshold for such support at present, will also be needed.
“Pubs will be lost if such measures are not taken, and will help the trade while it slowly recovers. We need these measures put in place now to ensure pubs can survive and be ready to reopen when safe to do so and then help as they slowly recover.”
McClarkin added: “Trade will not immediately return to the level it was before the Covid-19 crisis hit when pubs reopen.
“Upon reopening, trade could be down by as much as half what it was before. It will, inevitably, take time for consumer confidence to build. Social distancing restrictions in pubs will inevitably have a direct effect on footfall in pubs.”
The Government needs to recognise the impact of an extended lockdown on businesses and confirm the support package in place is extended until all restrictions are lifted, according to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).
CAMRA chief executive Tom Stainer said: “The pub industry was one of the first to be affected by the lockdown and it is likely to be one of the last to have restrictions lifted.
“This is having a hugely devastating impact not only on local businesses and jobs but on the breweries and cider producers that sell their products through pubs.
“The Government needs to recognise the impact of an extended lockdown on these businesses and confirm that the support package in place is extended until all restrictions are lifted. It must also consider a support package for pubs, breweries and cideries after they are able to reopen, in recognition that it will take many months for businesses to recover fully.”