‘Viable businesses will be lost from communities’

By Nikkie Thatcher contact

- Last updated on GMT

Trade issues: BII boss Steve Alton warned of the difficulties currently facing the sector
Trade issues: BII boss Steve Alton warned of the difficulties currently facing the sector

Related tags: Legislation, British institute of innkeeping, Steve Alton, Christmas

The Government’s latest announcement including asking people to work from home to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant could mean viable businesses will be lost, one sector leader has said.

The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) chief executive Steve Alton laid out how Christmas booking cancellations are hitting the association’s members.

He told the BBC ​this morning (Monday 13 December): “The impact since the restrictions were announced has been simply devastating for our pubs. We’ve got about 10,000 members, they run single pubs predominantly across the whole of the UK and they’ve been closed or heavily restricted for almost two years.

“All those reserves in the business, all [the] cash, the savings, they’ve built up pandemic-specific debts of more than £50,000 so Christmas trading was the only thing that was going to keep them through and give that little bit of resilience through the winter months ahead and actually get them to a point of next Easter and summer where they can genuinely start their recovery.

“The impact has been devastating. Three quarters of our members have seen significant Christmas bookings already cancelled with immediate effect, as soon as the Government announced restrictions.

“We’ve had 50% of non-Christmas bookings, those day-to-day bookings of people going out together, have stopped as well.”

Alton highlighted the impact of the Government’s announcement of the sector’s ongoing recruitment issues.

As bad as it gets

He added: “Overall trade has dropped enormously [and] 90% of those have seen over 20% and more of revenues already lost and a third have lost over 40%.

“These are businesses now making a loss, they simply don’t have the cash to pay the bills and they’ve ordered lots of food and drink with the expectation they could trade fully through this Christmas period and look after their customers, now they are facing food waste, throwing it away, they are reducing staffing hours.

“One in four of our pubs are even letting staff go and they’ve worked incredibly hard to build their teams to look after their customers safely.

“It’s as bad as it gets and we really now fear, in the new year, these viable businesses are just going to be lost to our communities.”

Furthermore, Alton called on the Government to provide the pubic with the confidence to go out and visit pubs and cited official data, showing the number of infections from venues.

He said: “We’ve proved time and time again that we’ve invested heavily in these sites, in training, in looking after their safety

“The Public Health England stats have always showed less than 2% of infections have ever been tracked back to hospitality so that’s the evidence about the risk.”

The BII boss went on to call on pubgoers to continue supporting their local as it supports suppliers including brewers, which depend heavily on pubs selling their beers.

Real impact

He went on to outline what the sector needs from the Government in order to survive the next few months.

“For Government, we wrote to the Chancellor directly after the announcements, as soon as we could see the real impact this was going to have,” Alton said.

“We are looking for a suspension of businesses rates in the immediate term. This is a huge cost to them and they are not trading businesses right now, they are being impacted so heavily.

“The extension of the low rate of VAT to summer, at least until the end of June next year and we are going to see grants needed yet again because we are back to the situation we’ve had before basically, through no fault of their own, they are now trading down, they’ve lost that trade.

“People aren’t out and about and this is not just about city centres, this is affecting pubs across the whole of the UK.”

Related topics: Legislation

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