Nationwide pub restrictions ‘devastating’ without further support

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Shutdown speculation: it is understood ministers are still discussing what to do
Shutdown speculation: it is understood ministers are still discussing what to do

Related tags: Coronavirus, Legislation, Health and safety, lockdown, ukhospitality, Morning advertiser

Voices in the pub sector have urged the Government to do more to protect on-trade jobs amid speculation the Government could introduce further restrictions on the sector.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC that the Government was "prepared to do what it takes" against the virus.

He said "we can avoid having to take serious further measures" if people follow social distancing guidelines and any additional regulations in their areas.

Speculation of shutdown

It has been reported ministers are considering a few weeks of stricter restrictions to tackle the rising number of cases.

Reports have suggested this could involve either a shutdown of English pubs or operating restrictions like curfews, which have already been introduced in several parts of the country.

This ‘circuit break’ has not been formally confirmed and it is understood the Government is still discussing what to do.

Localised restrictions mandating pubs to close earlier have been introduced in areas with high infection rates, including the Welsh county of Rhondda Cynon Taf​ and parts of the north east.

Damaged confidence

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls told BBC News that these suggestions are worrying news for the one million hospitality employees still relying on the Government's furlough scheme, which ends next month.

“Many in the industry will feel like they are on their own," she said.

"To talk about a second national lockdown without Government support for those businesses would be devastating. They just don't have the resilience to withstand a further period of closure."

Even if a total shutdown was avoided and restrictions on hours were introduced instead, there were damaging implications for the industry, Nicholls explained.

"Well I think it is [going to have a big difference]," she said. "If you're talking about national restrictions on hospitality, every time ministers talk about national restrictions on hospitality it further dents consumer confidence so we can see a dip in footfall, we can see a dip in revenue for these businesses that are clinging on by their fingertips at the moment."

Unprecedented challenges

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) agreed that consumer confidence was "very fragile".

"Any extra restrictions would inevitably have a further cooling effect on that," she added. "It is vital that the Government recognises the unprecedented challenges that pubs and brewers are facing at this time. Shutting down completely even for a short period, would be a monumental task, severely impact livelihoods and would come at an astronomical cost to the trade."

The trade association is among those calling for a sector-specific furlough scheme beyond October - in addition to extending the VAT cut and business rates holiday and slashing beer duty.

Jobs fears

At least 900,000 jobs could be at risk​ as the Government’s job retention scheme comes to an end.

The Morning Advertiser's (MA)​ managing editor Nic Robinson told BBC Breakfast​ the Government needed to “step in and give more support” to save these jobs.

“It [further restrictions] could potentially be devastating for the hospitality sector in general, pubs specifically," he said.

“We're lost, we don't know what's going to happen. We need more support from the Government. There's lots of jobs at risk."

Robinson added: "If we close pubs earlier in the evening, what's that going to mean? More people coming to pubs at an earlier time? Will there be bottlenecks? It's a real worry for the industry.”

Related topics: Legislation

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