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Mon 16th Mar 2020 - Coronavirus update: Prime minister tells people to avoid pubs and bars, shares slump, Joules’ rent gesture
Prime minister tells people to avoid pubs and clubs but stops short of telling venues to close: Prime minister Boris Johnson has told people to avoid pubs, clubs and other such venues – but stopped short of telling them to close. Johnson said the move was particularly key in London, while the UK is approaching the “fast-growth part of the upward curve” in the coronavirus outbreak. He said without “drastic action”, cases could double every five to six days. As a result, the government is asking people to start avoiding all unnecessary social contact, including pubs, clubs, theatres and other social venues. Johnson said: “Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and stop all unnecessary travel.” London is a few weeks ahead in terms of the virus curve than other places – meaning transmission is happening more rapidly, the prime minister said. For this reason, he said, those in the capital needed to be especially cautious. Johnson said the government would look to support businesses affected by the outbreak “in every way we can”. He added: “This is going to be a considerable challenge for businesses big and small and we will make sure we give them the support they need. We need to give business the space to make sure they can come back from this and will work with them to make sure they do.” An industry source told Propel: “This is an absolute disgrace. This isn't even a lockdown – presumably we limp along now (with everywhere empty) and then they'll be a lockdown. There is a complete lack of certainty and reassurance from government. We need a business continuity and recovery plan. We've got nothing.”

Pub and restaurant shares hammered by coronavirus, like-for-like sales down 7.7%: Sector company share prices have slumped in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. The Restaurant Group, which runs Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito, has seen its price tumble 46.45%. Marston’s price has dropped 44.89% while Mitchells & Butlers shares were down 32.45% when the London Stock exchanged closed. City Pub Group saw its shares fall 34.40% while Fulham Shore, which operates Franco Manca and The Real Greek, was down 30.82%. Young’s has fallen 25.71%, JD Wetherspoon is down 22.91% and Loungers 13.78%. Fuller’s was the least affected of the pub groups, with a drop of 5.48%. SSP Group saw its share price fall 4.68%, while Domino’s was down 4.51% as consumers opted for delivery. Of the hotel groups, EasyHotel saw its share price fall 27.74% while Whitbread only saw a drop of 3.88%. Meanwhile, like-for-like sales across the UK slumped 7.7% last week, with the hardest hit areas in London, where sales of food and drink plummeted almost 15%, according to S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. Friday (13 March) saw a near 20% fall in like-for-like sales for London sites, while venues outside London suffered a 5.9% drop in like-for-like sales during the week. The figures are in line with other industry reports including those from Wireless Social, which reported a 30% drop in footfall on the high street last week.

Joule’s halves rent for three months to support taphouse franchisees: Shropshire brewer and retailer Joule’s, which is headed by Steve Nuttall, is halving rent for its franchisees for the next three months to help ease the effect of coronavirus (covid-19). Joule’s estate stretches across Shropshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Flintshire and the rent concession will cover all 42 taphouses. Operating director John Auld said: “Trade will be tough in the coming months and we, as a business, don’t believe in standing and watching people struggle. The business is strong and we believe this support will enable our taphouse franchisees to be flexible and continue to trade within the current market.” Alongside the rent concession, Joule’s also said it would honour all beer returns if the stock went out of date because of unpredictable trade fluctuations. Brand manager Vicky Colclough said: “We want our taphouses to be on the front foot, ready to serve the community. Beer quality is paramount – our taphouses won’t be afraid to stock cellars. We are passionate about supporting our taphouses so we’re removing the risks where possible and stepping up to support them as best we can.”

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