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Hospitality operators face cancellations and confusion amid changing restrictions

15 October 2020 by
Hospitality operators face cancellations and confusion amid changing restrictions

Hospitality businesses in areas subject to tightening coronavirus rules say they are already seeing cancellations and "huge confusion" among customers.

London, Essex and Elmbridge in Surrey are among areas set to move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 restrictions from Saturday, meaning different households are banned from meeting indoors in restaurants and pubs.

Tom Brown, chef at Cornerstone in Hackney, accused the government of 'shirking their responsibility' to ensure there was a hospitality industry post-coronavirus.

He said: "The tier system doesn't help us, or diners. We've done everything to ensure Cornerstone is safe, so if it's not, then they need to go into lockdown, not this cop out again. Why does London get treated as one entity? Every borough is completely different. Brent isn't Borough? Where does London end and start? We might as well shut the whole industry down now, looks like that's what they want."

Peter Lloyd, chef owner of Sticky Mango near London Waterloo, said: "This is obviously a huge blow to our customer base as at least 75% of our customers are from mixed households socialising with friends and family. It feels like we are one step closer to where we were in March when the prime minister told the public not to go to restaurants."

James Cochran, chef at 12:51 in Islington, added that the tier system was "worse than lockdown".

"We've gone from having a fully booked Saturday lunch and being very busy to already having 40% of future bookings cancelled. [In lockdown] consumers and business had clarity."

Greg Marchand, chef-patron at Frenchie Covent Garden, said: "We're once again expected to survive, be viable and look after our staff at the same time but with no support from the government. How are we supposed to do that? These new measures will have a disastrous impact on our business!"

Piers Baker, from the Sun Inn on the Essex/Suffolk border and Church Street Tavern in Colchester, said he was already seeing cancellations with the county moving to Tier 2.

He said: "It is ridiculous, there are slight increases [in cases] in Southend as far as I can tell. How it manifests itself for the whole county I have no idea."

In Wales there are plans for border restrictions to ban people from other parts of the UK with high rates of coronavirus infection from travelling to the country.

First minister Mark Drakeford told Sky News he is also planning "very seriously" for a circuit breaker lockdown in the country.

William Grffiths, owner of The Abergavenny Hotel and Walnut Tree Inn on the Welsh border, said such reports were having a "huge impact" on forward bookings.

"The difference in rules between Wales and England is causing huge confusion for people wanting to book with us and has led to many cancellations, in an already difficult climate," he said.

"Local lockdowns, which surround us in Abergavenny, have had a huge impact on our food and beverage trade. Our forward bookings are significantly down on last year.

"Our occupancy rate for half-term 2020 is currently 15% – this is unheard of and pales in comparison to last year's half-term occupancy of 70%."

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said that businesses moving in to Tier 2 needed access to a more tailored financial package.

She is calling on the government to remove employer contributions from the Job Support Scheme ahead of the furlough scheme ending on 31 October.

"If it does not, we are looking at catastrophic closures and widespread job losses in the capital as early as 1 November," said Nicholls.

"[Businesses] will be trapped in a no man's land of being open, but with severe restrictions that will significantly hit custom, all while unable to access the job support available in Tier 3."

Discussions are still ongoing between the government and local leaders over the possibility of Manchester and Lancashire joining Liverpool in the (very high) Tier 3 level, which requires pubs and bars not serving "substantial food" to close.

Photo: Shutterstock

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