The government urgently needs to clarify whether hospitality will reopen in December as the sector is burning through £500m in cash reserves in November ‘just to stay closed'.
That was the warning from UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, who addressed a government select committee on the impact of coronavirus this morning (17 November).
She said the lockdown in England had seen hospitality go from a ‘precarious position' at the end of September back into ‘intensive care'.
By the end of Q3 the sector had lost 660,000 jobs, seen a 40% fall in turnover and dropped from a predicated 5% annual growth rate to -40%, Nicholls added.
She said it was imperative that England's national lockdown was time-limited and that the industry was given advance notice of reopening ahead of the planned lifting of restrictions in December.
Nicholls said: "We need to know which parts of the country are in which tiers as early as possible to allow businesses to plan. It would be really useful for it to be transparent and clear to know which metrics [are being used to determine] which parts of the country are in which tiers, and what is the test for moving in and out. We need that end route."
Ralph Findlay, chief executive of pub group Marston's, told the committee he would need "at least a week" to prepare his 1,300 sites for possible reopening.
He said: "We're here on 17 November and I understand we will open on 2 or 3 December for the biggest trading period of my year. I don't know what restrictions at this point I'll be working to. I don't know how many people of the 10,000 on furlough I can bring back. I don't know what discussions I need to have with my supply and logistics teams about getting beer into my pubs.
"We haven't had any communication from government over that process so far, and we need it."
Nicholls added: "We need stability. We can't have weekly changing [tier restrictions].
"We need to know for certain for what we are facing over Christmas and new year."
Yesterday government advisers said tier restrictions in England could be ‘strengthened' to get the country ‘through the winter months'.