Business groups have warned pubs, bars, restaurants and nightclubs face significant hardship or collapse after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in England was postponed for four weeks without new financial support from the government.
Full reopening without measures such as social distancing will not be allowed until July 19, Boris Johnson said on Monday, with a review in two weeks “unlikely” to result in any earlier easing.
But Chancellor Rishi Sunak has refrained from offering new funding to support struggling businesses that cannot trade profitably, or at all, under the restrictions.
The UK’s biggest business organizations have joined with hotel companies and unions in urging the government to change its mind and come up with new support measures, warning businesses would otherwise be pushed back to the wall.
Tony Danker, chief executive of Britain’s most powerful business lobby group, the CBI, said the government “needs to urgently review available support”, including phasing out tariff relief commercial and a moratorium on the right of landlords to collect commercial rents.
Both are due to end on July 1, signaling looming additional costs for debt-laden hospitality venues that will still be subject to restrictions on the number of people they can serve.
The nightlife economy, mainly late-licensed pubs and nightclubs, was particularly hard hit, with most businesses shutting down for 15 months.
Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill said the government had “turned off the lights” for the area by extending restrictions – which include a bar on reopening nightclubs and limits on major events. and performance – without offering any new help.
An NTIA survey found that one in four businesses in the nightlife economy, such as nightclubs and bars, don’t expect to survive the extra four weeks.
London nightclub Fabric co-founder Cameron Leslie called the delay a “punch”, saying huge sums were spent preparing for June 21.
âYou can’t just activate rooms like Fabric,â he said. “It’s a big machine that has been dismantled.”
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said the delay would cost pubs Â£ 400million and called for more support and no further delays beyond July 19. Pubs operate with reduced capacity due to social distancing guidelines and limits on household mixing.
“With each week the current restrictions remain and uncertainty persists, the likelihood that ads will be lost forever increases,” said BBPA Executive Director Emma McClarkin.
âOur ads require at a minimum an immediate three-month extension of the business rate vacation, the ability to defer loan payments now due and a further extension of VAT support.
âSubsidies for particularly affected businesses, such as pubs which still cannot reopen due to current restrictions, must now also be put in place. “
Kate Nicholls, director of UKHospitality, which represents pubs, hotels and restaurants, said many indebted English businesses would struggle to cope from July 1 when they will have to start paying business rates again. , although at reduced rates.
âFor many small independent pubs and restaurants, this would be the last nail in the coffin,â Nicholls said.
Pub chain Greene King said the added burden of commercial tariffs – a tax on commercial properties – would cost it Â£ 250,000 a week.
Nicholls also warned that the business outlook was still mired in uncertainty over Â£ 2.5bn in rent debt that had accumulated during the pandemic.
Government officials are trying to negotiate a deal whereby commercial landlords agree not to charge tenants the full amount of rent arrears owed since March 2020.
According to proposals put forward by the hospitality industry – and some real estate companies – tenants such as pubs and restaurants would have an additional six months to negotiate with owners.
Under the proposals, the government would establish a directive that landlords give up 50% of the rent debt. When the two parties cannot agree on the amount of rent to be paid, hotel bosses want a formal arbitration process that would last up to six more months.
While restrictions are not relaxed for most hotel businesses, weddings can take place with more than 30 guests as long as social distancing measures are in place, the government said on Monday.
Siobhan Craven-Robins, wedding planner and director of the National Association of Wedding Professionals, said the decision to allow larger celebrations with social distancing measures was partly good news, but only left that a week’s notice of a change in the roadmap was “massively disappointing.
She said the sites would not be able to accommodate their plethora of guests with social distancing. âA lot of people will not be invited and there will be another wave of postponements,â she said.
Most of the music festivals that were yet to take place this summer will be canceled without government support, the industry said.
The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has called on the government to provide guarantees so festivals can get the insurance they need to accommodate revelers.