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Tue 9th Jun 2020 - Update: £1.4bn rent bill, Inception Group and sector shares
UK Hospitality sends PM letter urging him to tackle sector’s £1.4bn rent bill: UK Hospitality has urged the prime minister Boris Johnson to help the industry tackle a looming £1.4bn rent bill. Sky News has seen a letter sent last week by Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality’s chief executive, in which she asks the prime minister to intervene to aid the survival of thousands of her members. The letter requests that the prime minister helps to “address the issue of rent debt which has built up in the sector over a prolonged period of closure and which, if left unaddressed, will significantly impair recovery”. In the letter, Nicholls says that the deferral of rent for three months meant that £1.4bn of rent would be payable by the end of this month “unless it is further deferred and by the end of September, three quarters of the annual cost will be levied by landlords in one payment”. “This is simply unsustainable and will unless tackled will result in widespread business failure,” she wrote.

Inception turns to mannequins and beekeeper suits for reopening plans: Inception Group, which owns and operates concepts including Cahoots and Mr Foggs, is planning to use mannequins and beekeeper suits to ensure social-distancing measures are met when its reopens. The company said that as an example, at its Mr Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair, which is themed for fictional explorer Phileas Fogg, to keep customers safely apart, it will fill unused seats with dummies dressed in Victorian costume, as though they were characters from Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. It is also proposing that staff may wear bee-keeping suits at Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals – themed for flowers and fauna – and gas masks as face coverings at both Cahoots sites, the 1940s-themed bars that sit opposite each other in Soho. The group also hopes to re-open its 1980s club Maggie’s – as in the late Baroness Thatcher – which it says they will be filled with “inflatable rubber rings to aid party-goers to keep a safe distance whilst dancing”. Co-founder Charlie Gilkes said: “The top priority for planning our reopening is adapting our ways of working and spaces to the new Covid-secure standards in order to ensure we create safe socialising and working environments in all of our venues. But, crucially for us, this must be done without forgetting, or compromising, what originally drew people into our establishments, and helped us build a loyal following. We do not want to welcome visitors back into spaces that feel sterile, devoid of personality and atmosphere because of the new measures. Now more than ever before, people will need spaces that spark a sense of escapism and imagination, and we are determined to adapt what we were doing successfully before to the new ways of operating, whilst staying true to what we do best: creating unique and memorable experiences. There is no escaping the fact that the new restrictions are going to pose significant challenges to the way hospitality businesses operate but we are trying our very best with what we can do. Should these playful solutions come to fruition, we will ensure they adhere to official guidelines. We are continuing to monitor the latest government guidance fastidiously, which will determine our eventual decisions on the most appropriate hygiene and safety measures for our reopening.”

Sector shares rise on early re-opening reports: Pub and restaurant companies saw their shares surge on Monday after news of an apparent government U-turn that could see them reopen in just two weeks. Reports today suggested ministers had formed a “save summer” plan to allow those serving customers outdoors to reopen on 22 June as opposed to the previous date of 4 July. Shares in Mitchells & Butlers and Marston’s rose 20% and 14% respectively. 

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