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Wed 30th Dec 2020 - Update: Sector ‘bloodbath’ warning, Mojo boss’ industry message, Kate Nicholls gets OBE et al
UKHospitality warns of sector ‘bloodbath’ without urgent support: UKHospitality has warned the government that without urgent action to support the sector there will be an industry “bloodbath”. From midnight on Thursday (31 December) almost all of England will be in either tiers three of four after the government imposed stricter restrictions in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus – with hospitality “effectively shut down”. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We have consistently pleaded for the government to reassure hospitality businesses and allow them to plan for survival, by announcing an extension to the 5% VAT rate and to the business rates holiday, and to urgently detail new support grants. Without these steps, businesses cannot plan for any future at all, meaning hundreds of thousands of job losses. With the vast majority of the country’s hospitality now unable to trade, we cannot deliver this message to government loudly enough. The sector has suffered more than any other under covid and without urgent action we will witness a hospitality bloodbath, losing thousands of venues for good.”

Mojo MD – ‘You haven’t failed – your business has been failed’: Martin Greenhow, managing director at Mojo Bars, has told the industry: “You haven't failed – your business has been failed.” In an open letter to the sector ahead of the new year, he said: “The government has cynically chosen to sacrifice your business, your livelihood and your future. A choice was made between education, mainstream food retail etc, and hospitality. Hospitality has been hung out to dry. We have been weighed and found wanting. I've experienced failure in business before. I understand how soul destroying it feels. The feeling that you personally failed, that you completely lack worth. The invalidation of everything you have worked and strived for. It is a pain as real as any other and one more difficult to escape because the accusation comes from within. That isn't the situation we find ourselves in. Our legs have been taken from beneath us. The oxygen has been stolen from our lungs. The flame in our hearts of commerce and invention extinguished without a thought for our future. So I repeat, regardless of how dire your situation may currently be, through all of this know that you have not failed. The current situation is an injustice perpetrated against you and against our entire industry. Regardless of the severity of the pandemic  there is no morality in singling out a section of society to be sacrificed. In 2008, was the finance sector left to burn despite it having voluntarily doused itself in petrol and taken to playing with matches? Why then, when we are deemed, without justification or proof, to be a facilitator for the spread of an illness, an illness mismanaged by international organisations and governments no less, should we be cut adrift like the plague ship we clearly are not? I would implore everyone in hospitality hearing or reading these words to reach for the last ounce of strength they have to stay in the fight. To stay in business. We have not failed but we have been failed. We are the yarn that holds the fabric of our society together and while at present we may be deemed inconsequential, our demise that grows ever more prescient will be felt by all, long after this virus is a distant memory.”

Kate Nicholls receives OBE in New Year Honours: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has been awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours list – for services to the hospitality sector. Nicholls said: “While I am personally humbled and honoured to receive this recognition, I have to pay tribute to the entire UKHospitality team for its tireless work and campaigning throughout this year, continually highlighting to government the specific challenges our sector faces. This year has been one of continued despair and heartbreak for hard-pressed hospitality businesses. They were hit first and hit hardest by the pandemic but, despite this, there have been countless inspirational examples of leadership, resilience and collaboration, of people coming together to support their local communities during this unprecedented time, helping to feed front-line NHS and key workers, the homeless and support others in need. It is those values that make me proud to have represented and been part of such a wonderful sector for many years. Our focus now is to continue to press government for additional financial support that will enable businesses to survive through the winter and be in a position to reopen and welcome back customers. I very much look forward to celebrating with family and friends at the first opportunity.”

Industry sales down 79.4% over festive period: Total industry sales were down 79.4% on last year from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, according to analysis from S4labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. Drink sales were down 84.2% and food was down 64%. Individually, sales on Christmas Eve were down by 71.5%, Christmas Day by 78.5% and Boxing Day by 88.1%. During the festive period, sites often close for at least one of the days. However this year with the recent tier four introduction, the majority of sites were closed; 53.3% of sites were shut on Christmas Eve, 33.6% of sites were closed on Christmas Day and 65.2% on Boxing Day. S4labour chief product officer Richard Hartley said: “This unpredictable year has ended in very suppressed Christmas sales due to ever increasing covid restrictions, and it’s not looking likely to change for a while yet.”

JD Wetherspoon asks politicians and public to reconsider evidence regarding lockdowns: JD Wetherspoon has asked politicians and the public to reconsider the evidence regarding lockdowns. It said Sweden, which did not impose a lockdown, has had less covid-19 fatalities per capita in recent weeks than the UK. In the week ending 21 December, according to the Worldometer website, there were 215 fatalities in Sweden, compared with 3,214 in the UK. Adjusting the Swedish fatality rate for population – the UK population is about 6.8 times larger – the UK fatality rate per capita is more than double Sweden's. From 1 November, just before the second UK lockdown, until 21 December, Worldometer records 2,244 fatalities in Sweden, compared with 21,061 in the UK. Adjusting the Swedish fatality rate for population, it is approximately 27% less than the UK's. According to the data, Sweden has had 806 fatalities per million, compared with 979 for the UK since the start of the pandemic. Sweden's “all-cause” fatality rate for 2020 is about the same as four out of the past five years. The UK's “all-cause” fatality rate in 2020 is slightly higher than recent years. Wetherspoon argued there does not appear to be a relationship between population density and covid-19 outcomes. Singapore and Taiwan have densely populated countries with low mortality, whereas France and the US are much less densely populated than the UK, but have similar covid-19 outcomes. Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “The statistical comparison between the UK and Sweden is freely available on Worldometer, but often seems to be ignored or misreported. A particular worry is the UK is relying on a lockdown strategy, championed by Neil Ferguson, Imperial College and SAGE, yet the Imperial College model forecast about 88,000 fatalities for Sweden, if it did not lockdown, but the outcome has been less than 10% of this number. Given the huge scale of job losses in the UK, especially in the hospitality industry, and the widely reported ‘collateral damage’ to health, there should be a proper debate on this subject, rather than reliance on politicised government propaganda and statistics.”

Labour joins calls for government to use returned business rates relief to support hospitality industry: Labour has joined the calls for the government to use business rates relief returned by supermarkets to provide extra support for the hospitality sector. Pubs and bars made £3.8bn in sales in November and December last year, but will have lost out on the bulk of that income this year due to the restrictions. Sites in tiers three and four can only operate as takeaways, and in tier two alcohol can only be served with food, an option not available in thousands of “wet-led” bars. From Boxing Day, when more areas entered tier four, 93% of pubs in England have been forced to shut, Labour’s analysis said. The party said the majority of pubs hit by restrictions were receiving less government support than in the March lockdown. Lucy Powell MP, shadow minister for business and consumers, said: “Pubs are a vital part of Britain’s high streets. They bring people together and help communities thrive. They’ve had the toughest of years as a result of the pandemic and, if the government doesn’t step up and put a proper support plan in place to secure their future, it will be last orders for many. Boris Johnson is failing our pubs. His glass half empty approach is a real threat to their future.” Large retailers have paid back about £2bn in business rates relief and Labour has joined hospitality bosses in calling for the money to support the industry and high street businesses. A government spokesman said: “We understand the pressure pubs and other businesses are under, however the current restrictions are essential so we can control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives. Businesses can access our unprecedented support package worth £280bn, including the extended furlough scheme, business rates holidays, various loan schemes and VAT deferral in addition to grants of £3,000 a month for businesses required to close.”

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