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Fri 9th Oct 2020 - Update: Sunak support, Marston’s and Carlsberg JV, Koh Thai
The Times – Sunak support scheme to be unveiled today: The Times has reported that Rishi Sunak will announce a local furlough scheme today in which the government will subsidise two thirds of the wages of workers in pubs, restaurants and other businesses that are forced to close to stop the spread of coronavirus. The newspaper added: “Pubs and restaurants in northern England will be shut next week in an effort to stop hospitals being overwhelmed by the rising number of covid-19 cases. A new system of restrictions divides England into three tiers of escalating severity. Merseyside and other parts of northern England will be placed in the highest tier as some hospitals start to run out of dedicated coronavirus beds. Businesses such as pubs, restaurants and cafés will be forced to close. The local furlough scheme will remain in place for as long as businesses are locked down. The scheme is significantly more generous than the successor to the wage support scheme announced by the chancellor last month, which subsidises a fifth of part-time wages. But it falls short of demands by unions that the government cover 80% of people’s wages, as it did when introducing the original furlough scheme, which ends on October 31. One minister told The Times that there has been frustration in government at the failure of the Treasury to bring forward the measures sooner. They argued that the package should have been ready two weeks ago alongside the chancellor’s winter economic plan because it was obvious that the additional funding would be needed. Downing Street hinted at financial help and did not rule out a new furlough scheme for the worst affected industries and per-head funding for local authorities. “Protecting jobs, particularly the two million in the hospitality sector, has been a priority throughout our response to the pandemic,” the prime minister’s spokesman said. Steve Rotheram, metro mayor for the Liverpool city region, said that financial support on a ‘similar scale’ to the original furlough scheme was needed. “If it was right then, it certainly is now – so we need to be seeing local furlough schemes, business grants and financial support for the self-employed and those who cannot work from home,” he said. “Otherwise, the money spent earlier in the year to protect jobs and businesses earlier in the year will have been wasted”.”

CMA clears Marston’s and Carlsberg joint venture: The CMA has cleared the proposed joint venture between brewing companies Carlsberg and Marston’s. A statement said: “Both companies are large brewers of beer and cider, as well as offering related services, such as wholesale supply of their own and other producers’ drinks to pubs and restaurants. Marston’s also owns a significant number of pubs located across the UK. The decision by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) follows an investigation into several possible ways in which the deal could harm competition in the supply of beer and cider in the UK. As pubs currently owned or operated by Marston’s might choose to sell fewer independent brands after the merger in favour of more Carlsberg products, the CMA considered whether access to pubs by smaller independent brewers could be adversely affected as a result of the deal. The CMA found, however, that Marston’s pubs form only a small part of the potential UK customer base for brewers, and that independent brewers would continue to have sufficient access to pubs after the merger, allowing them to compete effectively. The CMA also considered whether combining the wholesaling services that both companies provide, through which they distribute their own and other producers’ drinks to pubs and restaurants, could raise competition concerns. While the establishment of the joint venture means that the two businesses are likely to distribute each other’s products more frequently, potentially leaving less room to take on other brands, the CMA found that brewers will continue to have sufficient alternative wholesalers to choose from after the merger. In relation to their role as brewers, the CMA found that Carlsberg and Marston’s have different areas of focus, meaning competition between the two businesses is generally limited at present, with Carlsberg largely focusing on the production of lager and Marston’s focusing on ale. They also face several competitors in all of the product categories where they are both active. The CMA’s investigation has therefore concluded that the deal does not give rise to competition concerns.”

Koh Thai sites re-opening after emerging from administration: Three Koh Thai restaurants have been saved in a management buyout, after the chain was placed into administration due to the pandemic. Bournemouth’s Koh Thai restaurant at Poole Hill is set to reopen next week – branches at Lilliput, Poole, and in Southsea are already trading. A total of 70 jobs have been saved and a popular award-winning Bournemouth name is back in business again. In a statement released to the Daily Echo, the new owners said: “The tough trading conditions brought on by covid-19, sadly forced Koh into liquidation, but happily the management team have purchased back the restaurants in Bournemouth, Southsea and Lilliput and will continue to run them as the award winning, Koh Thai. We are really excited to have reopened as it not only protected 70 jobs but also allowed us to continue to serve the wonderful customers that have supported us so passionately over the years. I cannot thank them and our staff enough for all the positive messages of support they sent to us. We are also excited to announce that whilst closed we have developed a new exciting menu that highlights both the popular Koh Thai favourites but also now adds a healthier, better value dimension, to the dining experience. Apologies that it has taken us so long to return but we look forward to welcoming everyone back in the future.” The three sites were purchased from the liquidators by High Road Thai Restaurants Ltd. 

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