The new ‘work from home' directive will kill off the UK's hospitality sector this Christmas, hospitality bosses have warned, with urgent financial support needed for businesses.
UKHospitality, Croydon BID, Mayor of London and Boxpark have said reintroducing the work from home guidance will diminish consumer confidence, resulting in widespread cancellations of bookings during the critical festive trading period.
The group is urging government to provide financial support to soften the blow to Christmas trading from new Covid guidelines by redirecting unspent grants available to the sector or by introducing new alternatives such as a discretionary fund to be administered by local authorities.
This call is further backed by British BIDs, the BID Foundation, the Night-Time Industries Association and the Association of Town and City Management, who together collectively represent over 100,000 hospitality businesses.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality said anything less than full business rates relief, grants, rent protection and extended VAT reductions "would prove catastrophic."
Peter Marks, chairman of the board, REKOM UK, said: "If the government sees the need for compulsory vaccine passports, then it should do so across the board. It is not only unjust to single out the late night sector but it will have no impact on transmission rates. There is no difference being in a busy shop, shopping centre, restaurant, pub or bar, which all attract far greater numbers of people week in week out compared to the numbers of people that go clubbing.
"The late night economy, particularly nightclubs, has received only one third of the support of the nearest other hospitality industry by type and a tenth of those deemed cultural venues. Many operators have already gone bust and, with these latest measures, many thousands of jobs are at risk across the sector."
Owen Morgan, director at Bar 44 Group, posted on social media that bookings were "vanishing" with 60 cancellations last night and parties being cancelled for the next fortnight even before the announcement.
Gary Usher said his company Elite Bistros had seen hundreds of cancellations for December including a party of 70 this evening following the briefing. "Telling people to work from home has instantly ripped up Christmas reservations," he said.
The prime minister announced last night that, in England, people should work from home as of next week "if you can", while from Friday 10 December the legal requirement to wear a face mask will be extended to most public indoor venues including theatres and cinemas – but not hospitality.
The NHS Covid Pass will also become mandatory for nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather, including unseated events indoors with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue hosting more than 10,000 people. Parliament will debate the measures next week, with a vote expected to take place on Tuesday 14 December and certification will come into force from 6am on Wednesday 15 December, subject to parliamentary approval.
Boris Johnson said this would help "keep these events and venues open at full capacity". Regarding Christmas parties, he also said: "We think that it's ok to keep going with Christmas parties but obviously everybody should exercise due caution," and urged people to get tested ahead of parties.
He added that "we can't yet assume that omicron is less severe than previous variants" and said that the move to ‘Plan B' Covid restrictions was the "proportionate and responsible thing".
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