Hospitality operators have reacted with anger and dismay to the government's announcement of new tier restrictions for England after 2 December.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that all of hospitality will close in Tier 3 areas except for delivery and takeaway. In Tier 2 areas alcohol can only be served as part of a ‘substantial meal' and there can be no household mixing indoors.
Chef Sat Bains told The Caterer he was "fuming" and did not understand why hospitality was being penalised.
"When we cause 2-3% [of recorded Covid incidents], why are we being penalised, when you can go to the gym?" he asked.
Bains, whose two-Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms in Nottingham was under Tier 3 restrictions prior to the second lockdown, said making the tier system more stringent for hospitality businesses, and then not confirming which regions will be subject to which rules, was confusing for operators wanting to prepare for potential reopening next Wednesday.
"Why not tell us today which areas are being locked down, when we're supposed to open next week? I've got suppliers, I've got orders to put in. There's a deadly disease out there, I get it, but when we are one of the areas with the lowest rates of infection, and we are being given the most stringent measures – it's almost like they want us to fail."
Bains said he feels heartbroken for any businesses who end up in Tier 3, as he doesn't know how they will survive.
Simon Wood, chef-owner at Wood Manchester, said his reaction was one of ‘dismay'.
Wood's restaurant was previously able to remain open under Tier 3 restrictions in Manchester but will have to close except for delivery if the region is placed under the tougher rules in December.
He said: "Where's the evidence for this? If you're a hospitality venue in Tier 3 now you've got no hope whatsoever.
"We've done everything the government asked and were told the R rate was coming down, and now we've had the rug pulled from under our feet with no evidence. It shows a complete disregard for anyone's wellbeing in the hospitality industry."
UKHospitality warned the measures were a ‘lockdown in all but name' that would lead to permanent closures and job losses in the industry.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: "The government is making a point of saying that these measures are needed in order to save Christmas. In reality, they are killing Christmas and beyond for many businesses and their customers who look forward to, and rely on, venues being open at this time of year. Sadly, for many staff, it will be a Christmas out of work."
The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) is calling the government to compensate ‘unfairly targeted' pubs for the loss of revenue.
"The alternative is that our vibrant and viable sector will simply not be around in 2021," said chief executive Steven Alton. "Jobs will be lost in their millions, businesses will collapse and the essential community value that they deliver will be destroyed.
Nick Mackenzie, Greene King chief executive, said: "Yet again, the UK pubs sector must pick itself up off the floor after another crushing blow. We've invested millions of pounds to make our pubs safe throughout this pandemic but today it feels like pubs have been unfairly singled out once again.
"Safety is paramount but restrictions must be proportionate and not put hundreds of thousands of people's jobs at risk across the hospitality industry.
"We welcome the news about the curfew but it has limited benefit when pubs are closed in Tier 3 and unable to serve alcohol unless it's with food in Tier 2. We ask the government to reconsider disproportionate measures, such as banning the sale of alcohol in Tier 2 unless it's with a substantial meal, and work constructively with the hospitality sector to find solutions that not only protect lives but also protect livelihoods through to next spring."
Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) national chairman Nik Antona said the extra restrictions on pubs will be "devastating" for businesses, jobs and the future of community pubs across England.
He said: "To add insult to injury, the prime minister hasn't given any evidence about why these restrictions are necessary and didn't announce any extra financial support to give the beer and pubs sector a fighting chance of surviving the next few weeks and months.
"Pubs - particularly those which don't serve food – are being offered up as a sacrificial lamb without any evidence or explanation as to why they are being treated more harshly than the likes of shops and gyms."
Stuart Procter, chief operating officer of the Stafford Collection, also expressed dismay at the new tiers. He said: "If you're in Tier 1 you can go to a sporting event with up to 4,000 people, in Tier 2 a sporting event up to 2,00 people, and yet you are only allowed a table of six in a restaurant. There is zero logic being applied here."
Mohammad Paknejad, co-founder of Nutshell in London's Covent Garden, added: "Yet again, the biggest casualty of the new regulations seems to be hospitality."
However, Bains said he was optimistic the industry could survive the restrictions with the right support.
He said: "We will survive this – I'm very positive. Just tell us what to do and we'll do it, just give us some help – like with the turnover as they do in other countries.
"Hospitality is massive and employs so many people from all different walks of life, it's about looking after each other, that's the whole point of hospitality, it's about nurturing, and now if we're in the wrong tier we can't even do that, so where does that leave us? It's almost like they're waiting for us to go out of business, that's what it feels like." Image: Shutterstock