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Welsh hospitality welcomes support for businesses hit by ‘firebreak' lockdown

19 October 2020 by
Welsh hospitality welcomes support for businesses hit by ‘firebreak' lockdown

Hospitality businesses in Wales have welcomed targeted financial support for the sector announced earlier today, when it was confirmed that hospitality and tourism businesses in the country will have to close from 6pm on Friday [23 October] for a two-week ‘firebreak' lockdown.

William Griffiths, owner of the Angel hotel and Michelin-starred Walnut Tree Inn in Monmouthshire, said despite the frustrations of having to plan a second closure and reopening, the news was welcome.

He said: "For the past six weeks, local lockdowns have been hitting us hard and all the uncertainty has led to many cancellations and has been putting people off booking rooms and tables.

"Questions now are around how we come out of this circuit breaker and whether we all come out at the same time, rather than a staggered/phased opening back up of counties/industries, as we have seen previously."

UKHospitality Cymru executive director for Wales, David Chapman, said that a second lockdown was a "severe blow" to Welsh hospitality and tourism, but it was "very encouraging" to see the first minister single out hospitality for support, which he said was "welcome, positive and shows that the Welsh government is listening to us".

He added: "It is vital now that we get some further advice on how the Economic Resilience Fund will be applied, how businesses over £51,000 rateable value will be additionally helped and how the support announced by the first minister is applied without delay to keep businesses alive and avoid further job losses.

"Once the firebreak is complete, we then need to see some really innovative thinking around how Welsh Government continues to support the sector and that must include a second look at current restrictions around opening hours. Hospitality is part of the solution, not the problem, to keeping Covid-19 at bay."

However, Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) director for Wales Chris Charters, described it as "absolutely devastating news" and that while grants were welcome and necessary, "many fear that they won't be enough to pay for both fixed costs and their staff wages as the UK government's jobs support scheme doesn't kick in until next month".

He said: "The Welsh and UK governments urgently need to work together to bring forward a comprehensive financial support package to cover this fire-breaker period - and the weeks and months following it to allow businesses to get back on their feet.

"Without proper compensation we risk seeing pubs, breweries and cider producers closing for good before Christmas."

As in March, bars and restaurants must close, with the exception of takeaways.

To support businesses affected by the Covid restrictions until Monday 9 November, small and medium leisure and hospitality businesses that must close will be automatically given a one-off payment of up to £5,000.

Every business covered by the small business rate relief will get a £1,000 payment. A further discretionary grant for smaller businesses who are struggling because of the restrictions will also be available.

The government announced last week that it was making an extra £80m available to help businesses deal with the challenges of coronavirus, which will be increased to £100m, and £20m of this will be ringfenced for tourism and hospitality businesses.

First minister Mark Drakeford said applications for financial aid will open in the first week of the lockdown and will be allocated "as quickly as we can".

People will have to work from home unless they are critical workers or have jobs where working from home is not possible, and there will be no household mixing allowed either indoors or outdoors during the two-week period except for support bubbles.

Drakeford said: "Once again there are no easy choices in front of us as the virus spreads rapidly in every part of Wales. We know that if we do not act now, it will continue to accelerate and there is a very real risk that our NHS would be overwhelmed.

"This firebreak is the shortest we can make it, but that means that it will have to be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus."

He said the Welsh government is "acutely aware of the impact" this will have on businesses and that businesses "will need this support quickly".

All businesses required to close will also be able to access the UK's Job Retention Scheme and new expanded Job Support Scheme, however Drakeford said he has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak to allow Welsh businesses early access to the JSS under the circumstances, even though it is not due to launch until 1 November.

Drakeford said "more generous payments" are needed to help workers through this crisis, adding that the firebreak lockdown will be "our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much longer and much more damaging national lockdown".

Photo: Shutterstock

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