Plan B rules lift ‘good news’ but severity of impact ‘must not be underestimated’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Trade association reaction: UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls and British Beer & Pub Association head Emma McClarkin had their say on the Plan B announcement
Trade association reaction: UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls and British Beer & Pub Association head Emma McClarkin had their say on the Plan B announcement

Related tags Legislation Government British beer & pub association ukhospitality Emma McClarkin Kate nicholls

The Government's latest announcement that Plan B rules are being scrapped has been cautiously welcomed by trade bodies, alongside calls for further support.

Plan B measures including guidance to work from home and mandatory Covid passes for nightclubs are to be dropped, it was revealed earlier today.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the statement to MPs in the House of Commons​ this afternoon (Wednesday 19 January) outlining the mandatory vaccine passport rule will end from Thursday next week (27 January) and the work from home message will no longer be in force immediately.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) welcomed the news but urged the Government to continue financial aid for the sector.

Extremely good news

Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The announcement from the Prime Minister today to remove all Plan B restrictions when they expire on 26 January is extremely good news for our pubs and brewers. However, the severity of the impact these measures had on trade during the festive period and into the new year must not be underestimated.

“It is vital the Government now lays out its plan for living with Covid as an endemic disease, this will enable the sector to plan for a strong and sustainable recovery.”

McClarkin outlined how the time is now for the sector to be helped, following a tumultuous time for the trade and communities it serves.

She added: “After yet another setback and numerous false dawns, now is the time to support the sector for the long term with measures that will enable pubs and brewers to thrive as the heartbeats of our local communities and economies.

“We are urging the Government to act now and extend the current lower level of VAT for food and beverages sold in pubs with a view to making this permanent, implement Alcohol Duty Reform proposals that encourages consumption of beer as a lower-strength product, and introduce business rates reform that reduces the disproportionate burden paid by pubs and levels the playing field with online businesses.”

More balanced reaction

UKHospitality lauded the latest announcement as a key milestone on the road to recovery for the industry.

Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “This is fantastic news for the hospitality sector, after the critical Christmas trade was laid to waste for the second year running.

“Lifting the working from home recommendation is a particularly important move as it enables town and city centres, and the businesses that are their lifeblood, to begin their revival and recovery. These businesses will be eagerly looking forward to welcoming their customers back over the coming days and weeks.

“The end of mandatory certification is also a hugely welcome step, particularly for English nightclubs and those businesses whose trade has been drastically restricted by the measures. Certification had deterred customers from spontaneous visits and severely limited trade. We would now urge the devolved administrations to begin removing these and other conditions at the earliest opportunity.

“This signals a move to a more balanced reaction to dealing with the virus. It’s critical that the health infrastructure remains in place, such as testing capabilities. Some hospitality businesses may retain safety measures in order to keep their staff and customers safe, but the nation must avoid further restrictions in future as the virus becomes endemic.”

She went on to call on the Government to consider lifting travel restrictions in order for the sector to help aid the nation’s economy recovery.

Furthermore, Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie also welcomed the announcement of Plan B rules being dropped.

He said: "It's great news we're on the road to recovery as the Prime Minister has decided to roll back Plan B and we hope this gives the public a confidence boost to get back out and socialise.

"It's particularly welcome there is an end to enforced working from home, which has had a significant impact on our city centre pubs.

"We want to see our towns and cities get back to the thriving social hubs we enjoyed pre-Covid and [the] Government and employers need to encourage this return.

"Omicron had a crushing impact on consumer confidence and trading over Christmas, just as we were starting to build business back from the effects of the past 18 months."

The Greene King boss also called on the Government for continued financial aid.

He added: "To support the industry's recovery, we ask the Government to extend the lower rate of VAT in pubs."

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