Pubs and Restaurants Bear the Brunt Again

Bob’s Telegraph cartoon on April 3rd

Once again, the hospitality industry is to bear the brunt of Covid restrictions after the national lockdown ends on Dec 2nd. The Telegraph has the story:

Hospitality businesses in Tier 3 will only be allowed to offer takeaways, while those in Tier 2 will only be able to serve alcohol with “substantial meals”.

The measures – which are significantly tougher than under the previous tier system – were described as “catastrophic” by pub chiefs on Sunday night, with a warning that one million jobs are now on the line. While there is bad news for pubs, other restrictions will be lighter than under the old tier system. All shops will be allowed to open in all tiers, together with gyms and places of worship, while recreational sport, including golf, tennis and organised team sports can resume. Cinemas will be allowed to reopen in Tiers 1 and 2, and the advice to “work from home if you can” will remain across the country

What’s particularly cruel about this decision is that there’s no evidence that pubs and restaurants are a major source of infection. According to PHE’s own data, only 4% of COVID-19 outbreaks can be traced back to the venues. On what basis, therefore, is the Government decreeing that non-essential shops, cinemas and gyms can reopen, but pubs and restaurants in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas have to remain closed?

Opposition is mounting on the Tory back-benches, with the 70-strong Covid Reform Group set to oppose the measures (see round-up below). But that will be small comfort to the affected businesses, particularly as Labour has said it will vote with the Government to get the new restrictions through.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said the news was “far worse than anyone could have anticipated”.

She said: “This a cruel decision and it just feels as if the whole sector is being thrown to the wolves.

“If the tiers had stayed as they were until March, we were already expecting 94% of businesses in Tier 3 and 74% of businesses in Tier 2 to go to the wall. Now we have restrictions that are even worse.

“We make 25% of our profits in the run-up to Christmas and the Government is taking that away.

“This will have a catastrophic effect on a large number of businesses and all those jobs that were furloughed will now be lost. You are talking about the prospect of a million job losses and 30 to 40,000 premises closing their doors for good.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Iain Duncan Smith has written an excellent comment piece in today’s Daily Mail about the catastrophic impact the lockdown-in-all-but-name will have on the economy.


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