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Mon 22nd Feb 2021 - Operators lambast government after being told they won’t open indoors until mid-May at earliest
Operators lambast government after being told they won’t open indoors until mid-May at earliest: Operators have lambasted the government after being told they won’t open indoors until at least mid-May – without any announcement of further financial support. Prime minister Boris Johnson said pubs and restaurants in England could be allowed to reopen outdoors from 12 April “at the earliest” as part of the government’s “cautious but irreversible” roadmap out of lockdown. Pubs and restaurants would be able to serve customers subject to the “rule of six” or a larger group from two households, with table service only. If the virus remains under control, indoor seating could return from 17 May, with “one metre-plus” social distancing restrictions also returning. The current lockdown restrictions are set to be eased in four stages, with hospitality venues set to start reopening in the third stage of the plan. The regional tier system that was in place before lockdown has been ditched, with all restrictions being lifted nationally. The curfew for pubs and restaurants has also been scrapped in order to prevent crowds gathering in streets and at transport hubs after closing, while the requirement for pub-goers to have a “substantial meal” with a drink has also been removed. Cinemas, theatres, concert halls, children play areas, hotels, bed and breakfasts will also be able to open from 17 May. From 21 June, the government hopes to reopen nightclubs and lift restrictions on large events such as festivals. Ministers also hope to remove restrictions on weddings. It is also the date the potential for all legal limits on social contact can be removed and the sector can fully reopen. Ministers will use four tests for easing the measures, with the government set to examine the data at each stage before unlocking further. These tests will include assessing the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, new variants and infection rates before proceeding to the next step. Johnson said: “I want to reassure the House we will not pull the rug out and we will do everything we can to save businesses and livelihoods and the chancellor will outline those steps further next Wednesday (3 March).” But operators have voice their anger over the announcement. Peter Borg-Neal, founder and chairman of Oakman Inns, said: “The prime minister has just said that for businesses ‘the end is in sight’. An unfortunate use of words for many.....” Loungers chairman Alex Reilley tweeted: “My head hurts and my heart aches – today was the day Boris Johnson condemned thousands of hospitality businesses to death. Hopes and dreams crushed, livelihoods destroyed, and jobs lost. Seemingly it’s an acceptable sacrifice of a sector 10 Downing Street has always seen as second class.” Matt Snell, chief executive of Gusto, tweeted: “Over two months until the hospitality industry opens in any meaningful way. That will be more than one billion in cash burn for the industry as a whole. Just let that sink in for a moment Rishi Sunak. Almost a year ago you said ‘whatever it takes’ now is the time two deliver on that promise.” Greg Mulholland, campaign director of the Campaign for Pubs, said “It’s disappointing today’s announcement was made without any indication of what further support will be provided for pubs to get them through this crisis. The chancellor must announce this as soon as possible and before the Budget and it must be adequate or there will be many publicans who just won’t be able to continue racking up debts and pubs will start to close.” Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill said: “We are pleased to hear within the prime minister’s statement the inclusion of a timeline for night-time economy businesses, in particular some of the hardest hit businesses, many of which have been closed since March 2020, like nightclubs, bars and casinos. Despite this, our evidence suggests that 85% of those who work in the night-time economy are considering leaving the sector. The sector urgently needs additional clarity on reopening and critical financial support from the chancellor if we are to avoid economic and social damage that will last a generation.”

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