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Mon 25th Jan 2021 - Update: Halfway house lockdown, Y0! secures £13m
Britain faces three-month ‘halfway house’ lockdown after Easter as over-50s wait for second vaccine: Britain faces a three-month lockdown ‘halfway house’ after Easter, with a full reopening delayed until all over-50s have had their second dose of the vaccine, The Telegraph has reported. The newspaper stated: “Ministers are considering proposals to begin reopening swathes of the economy in April under similar restrictions to those in place over the summer, with ‘rule of six’ and social distancing measures in force in pubs and restaurants. A return to full normality will be delayed for at least 12 to 14 weeks to allow for all over-50s to have their second dose of the vaccine, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Ministers are keen to reopen hospitality venues in some capacity before the G7 summit in the second week of June, when the UK will host world leaders in Carbis Bay, Cornwall. National measures will be eased in advance of the summit, allowing pubs, restaurants and tourism to begin to trade again. Boris Johnson has previously suggested that England will return to the geographic tier system after the lockdown ends, but sources suggested the tiers may apply to the whole country rather than to specific areas. “The appetite for regional tiers will only come if you have large swathes of the country that are significantly lower in case numbers and new variant case numbers and hospitalisations,” a source said. Officials are understood to be planning the reopening of schools first, followed by an increase in personal freedoms, allowing meetings of friends and family outdoors, before hospitality opens with social distancing measures in place. The plans could see a full reopening of the economy under ‘normal’ rules by the first week of July, after the over-50s have had a second dose of the vaccine. Downing Street distanced itself from the proposals on Sunday night.” A Number 10 spokesman said: “It’s not a timetable under discussion”. Hospitality bosses cautiously welcomed the prospect of reopening under ‘halfway house’ restrictions from April. Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: “We understand that restrictions might need to be in place for quite a period of time after we reopen. In that case, given that would have a significant impact on business viability and jobs within the sector, we would want to work with the government to support us through that reopening and recovery period as we transition out of restrictions. Key to that would be extending the business rates holiday and the VAT cut.”

YO! secures £13m injection from shareholders: The US parent company of YO! Sushi secured a £13m cash injection from shareholders to help it through the crisis. According to accounts filed at Companies House, Mayfair Equity Partners provided Snowfox with £13m of new funding as part of the deal, after the company was forced to close 19 of its sites last year due to the impact of the pandemic. The company also secured a £10m debt facility with its banking lenders, which it will use to fund investment in the business. The Richard Hodgson-led YO! secured approval for company voluntary arrangement (CVA) last September. The CVA saw 19 of the brand’s 69 UK restaurants close and address nine sites YO! no longer operates but where the company is legally responsible for the rent. It also resulted in 250 redundancies. Hodgson told The Telegraph: “When lots of restaurants and kiosks are closed and your revenue has all but disappeared, there is still a cost base and liabilities to pay so we needed to inject that money.” Hodgson said the shareholder funding was used to pay off debt and arrears to landlords and invest in a new restaurant model. He estimates that the new traffic light system, which replaced its previous conveyor belt model, has cut food waste costs by 15% and staffing costs by between 15% and 20%. Hodgson said that despite the job losses in September, the government’s furlough scheme had enabled it to retain a significant proportion of its workforce, particularly workers from overseas. He said: “Many team members may have migrated back to their home countries if it wasn’t for the furlough scheme. There was a shortage of chefs in our industry before the pandemic and it’s really important that when the hospitality industry does get back on its feet we have enough people to serve our customers.” However, he warned that more support was needed to support the hospitality sector around rents and repairing the relationship between tenants and landlords. He said: “There is an obscene amount of rental liabilities that have been built up across the hospitality and wider retail sector and the government has yet failed to intervene with any kind of solution. That worries me not only for our business but high streets in general.”

The Times – pub veterans line up to do pub deals: The Times has reported that Mark McQuater, the former boss of Barracuda Pub Company and Revolution Bars, and Mark Crowther, the former Liberation Group chief executive, are both seeking backing for pub deals. Last week, Propel reported that former Green King chief executive Rooney Anand had raised £200m for pub deals. Propel also reported Gerry Carroll and Mark McGinty, who co-founded Hawthorn Leisure, has teamed up with James Croft, formerly group strategy and retail director at Ei Group, to launch Valiant Pub Company. Crowther told The Times the ‘phone had been ringing off the hook from private equity firms saying they want to get into the sector’.

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