Delay to 21 June reopening would have ‘devastating effect' on the hospitality industry

01 June 2021 by
Delay to 21 June reopening would have ‘devastating effect' on the hospitality industry

Fears are growing that ‘Freedom Day' on 21 June – the day when all restrictions on social contact in England could be lifted – may be delayed and further impact hospitality businesses.

The government will not confirm its decision until 14 June that nightclubs will be able to reopen and restrictions on large events and performances lifted. Concerns have been raised regarding the Delta variant, first recorded in India, and its impact on cases, particularly in the north of England.

At the time of writing, across the UK 74.8% of the adult population had had their first vaccination, and 48.5% their second. Between 25-31 May, 23,418 people tested positive for coronavirus, up 28.8% on the previous seven days, and 58 had died within 28 days of a positive test, an increase of 45%. The number of patients admitted to hospital was up 23.2% on the prior week. The R number in England is estimated to be between 1 and 1.1.

Some experts are calling for the final stage of lockdown easing to be delayed, including Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), who suggested delaying the reopening "by a few weeks while we gather more intelligence and we can look at the trajectory in a clearer way", speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Nothing I've seen would suggest that we should extend or delay the date of reopening," business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also told the BBC. "But the caveat obviously is the data can change."

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said any delay would have a "devastating effect" on an "already fragile" hospitality sector and "would push many businesses closer to the cliff edge of failure, meaning more job losses".

She added: "Should the timings slip and restrictions remain beyond 21 June, it's vital that further financial support from the government is forthcoming, including business rates payments being postponed until at least October, and an extension of the rent moratorium while a long-term solution is found, as well as permanent lowering of VAT on hospitality goods and services."

Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, said uncertainty was creating "a wave of panic" across the hospitality sector and that any delays would have "severe consequences" for the sector.

"Having spent half a billion on measures to create safe environments, the vast majority are currently trading at a loss," he said.

"Add in the impending financial demands and the mental anxiety many are facing is unimaginable. Landlords are circling and, in most cases, demanding the rent arrears accrued over the last 15 months, and once the rent moratorium falls away at the end of June, we could see thousands of venues fall by the wayside if restrictions are not fully lifted."

One in four (23.7%) of Britain's restaurants, pubs, bars and other licensed premises have yet to reopen either because they are still unable to due to restrictions or because reopening remains unviable. Around 45.2% of Britain's sports and social clubs remain closed, alongside 50.9% of large venues and 27% of bars.

Nine in 10 nightlife operators fear any delay to the final stage of the government's reopening roadmap in England could threaten the survival of their business. A survey of 172 businesses by the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) found 95% have already made financial commitments to reopening.

Some 54% have already ordered stock for 21 June, 73% have called in staff and 60% have sold tickets, while 64% have booked entertainment and 80% have paid for marketing and promotional materials.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the NTIA, said thousands of businesses "risk being plunged into further financial hardship" by a deviation from the reopening plan, while Bristol nightlife advisor Carly Heath said it would be the "death knoll for many businesses barely holding on".

Photo: Shutterstock

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