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Thu 25th Mar 2021 - Update: Vaccine passports ‘unworkable’, booking demand, Inn Collection Group, Cineworld et al
Kate Nicholls – proposals to bar pub customers who have not had vaccine ‘unworkable’: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has said proposals to allow pubs to bar entry to customers who have not had a covid vaccine would be “unworkable”. Prime minister Boris Johnson told the liaison committee of senior MPs the idea of vaccine passports in pubs “may be up to the landlord”. The move is part of a review of “vaccine passports” being led by cabinet office minister Michael Gove, which could lead to venues demanding a recent test or proof of vaccine and relaxing rules on social distancing. But Nicholls told Sky News: “It’s crucial that visiting the pub and other parts of hospitality should not be subject to mandatory vaccination certification. It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainty result in breaches of equality rules.” Serial sector investor Hugh Osmond said: “I sincerely hope the hospitality industry will unite in opposition against any proposal to require vaccine passports as a condition of entry to pubs or restaurants. Discriminatory, repressive, unfair, unethical.” Peter Marks, chief executive of Rekom UK, formerly Deltic Group, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme a vaccine passport scheme could work for his business and that the “younger demographic” wouldn’t have a problem with it. On the same programme, Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Kent brewer and retailer Shepherd Neame, said it wouldn’t work in its pubs, which have to be “welcoming and inclusive”. He asks what happens if “grandpa’s forgotten his vaccine certificate?” and added police carrying out random checks on the vaccination status of pub customers is “not the sort of society we want”. Conservative MP Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, added: “The prime minister began to tread a dangerous path when he opened the door to domestic covid certificates. First he said we’ll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub. Whether the state legislates for it, recommends it or simply allows it the result will be the same – a two-tier Britain that prevents pregnant women from taking part in society, given the government is telling them not to take the vaccine. Or one where we turn back the clock and tolerate businesses turning away customers from communities which have shown an unfortunate hesitancy to take up the offer of a vaccine. We must not fall into this ghastly trap.”
 
Pubs and restaurants report ‘unbelievable’ level of bookings ahead of reopening: Pubs and restaurants with beer gardens are experiencing overwhelming demand ahead of 12 April, when those in England will be allowed to serve food and drink outdoors. Many social media users have complained at being unable to book a table in their local area due to huge demand ahead of the reopening. London’s largest beer garden, The Terrace Bar at Alexandra Palace, is already fully booked every day of the week commencing 12 April, and every weekend until 23 May, a spokesman told The Independent. Fuller’s said it has also already had a “high level of bookings” prior to the relaxation of covid restrictions. Tapas restaurant El Gato Negro, which has sites in Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, and sister site Canto in Manchester have taken an “unbelievable” number of bookings, with its first week of alfresco dining being booked up within 24 hours. Simon Shaw, the restaurants’ chef patron and creative director said: “It’s been unbelievable. The level of inquiries received has exceeded all expectations, with bookings significantly over and above that of which we saw during Eat Out To Help Out.” Suffolk-based brewer and retailer Adnams had an unprecedented number of bookings since the government’s announcement, and all its accommodation is now fully booked up until the end of September. Many Twitter users have complained of being unable to book a table for the reopening. One tweeted: “The pain of knowing the pubs will be open in a month but you can’t even go as all the outside tables are already booked up everywhere.” Another wrote: “Honestly dying at the fact basically all pubs are fully booked for the first weekend when everything is opened.” From April 12, data permitting, venues in England will be allowed to serve food and drink in outdoor spaces and customers will not be forced to order a substantial meal with alcohol. Unlike under previous restrictions, there will be no curfew, but the rule of six will be in place. Indoor pubs and restaurants will open no earlier than 17 May in England. In Scotland, venues can open outdoors until 10pm – with customers allowed to order alcohol – from 26 April. From the same date, customers can order food (but not alcohol) indoors until 8pm. From 17 May, venues can open until 10.30pm indoors and serve alcohol, and punters can also drink outside until 10pm, with people being allocated two-hour slots.
 
The Inn Collection Group acquires waterfront Lake District site for 20th venue: The Inn Collection Group has added to its portfolio with the acquisition of waterfront Lake District venue The Wateredge Inn in Ambleside. The company has completed on the venue at Waterhead Bay, which fronts on to Lake Windermere, for its 20th site in total. Set in more than an acre of private grounds, The Wateredge Inn has direct lake access, a private jetty and large outdoor seating area. The undisclosed deal for the 38-bedroom site sees The Wateredge Inn becoming the group’s third venue in Ambleside. Its acquisition broadens the group’s customer base in Cumbria further ahead of the predicted post-lockdown UK staycation surge, taking the company’s Lake District estate to seven. Managing director Sean Donkin said: “The Wateredge Inn is a magnificent addition to our portfolio. We are excited to have brought this extraordinary venue into our collection as our group continues to earn its stripes for its outstanding pubs with rooms in the very best locations across the north of England. Our priority is identifying and sourcing remarkable venues with their own USPs. With its lakeside setting and close proximity to Ambleside, The Wateredge Inn is matchless and will be a stunning new addition to our eat, drink, sleep and explore collection.” The Wateredge Inn will reopen for trading under The Inn Collection Group’s brand in line with planned lockdown restrictions lifting for indoor hospitality venues on Monday, 17 May. The Wateredge Inn acquisition is the Alchemy-backed group’s first purchase of 2021 as it continues to expand with strategic “buy and build” freehold growth plans, supported with banking from OakNorth. Colliers International acted on behalf of the vendor. The Inn Collection Group were advised by Newcastle-based law firm Wardhadaway and Silverstone on pre-acquisition diligence.
 
Government’s support ‘is ending far too early relative to its lockdown lifting roadmap’: Selaine Saxby, Conservative MP for North Devon, has said the government’s support for pubs is ending far too early relative to its lockdown lifting roadmap and will “taper off before there is a full return to profitability”. Saxby wrote: “Without a doubt the hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit throughout the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, having been shut for ten out of 14 months. The latest research by UKHospitality shows the sector will have lost £86bn in revenue by the end of March 2021 – down 68% There are now 600,000 fewer jobs in the sector than before covid hit our shores, despite the unprecedented support of furlough. The sector is also racked with new debt – an estimated £2bn in rent debt and £6bn in loans and other finance, which makes the recovery that bit more challenging. It is fair to say the hospitality sector has received an unprecedented level of support across VAT reductions, business rate holidays, grants, loans, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, alcohol rates frozen, and a wealth of other measures. The chancellor said he would do ‘whatever it takes’ – hospitality may just need a little more help. The much-loved British pub, particularly our community, wet-led pubs and our British brewers, are unlikely to bounce back as quickly as we had once hoped. Our behaviour may have fundamentally changed and we now need to ensure our wonderful local pubs, particularly in rural communities where they are often the last remaining community asset, are able to return to their former vibrancy at last orders. Even assuming the roadmap stays in track, the sector cannot fully reopen until 21 June. Some 60% of pubs may not reopen on 12 April, despite the government relaxing regulations to enable them to trade outdoors more easily. This will mean the support will taper off before there is a full return to profitability, which is forecast to take at least six months after the restrictions are fully removed. In short, the government’s support is ending far too early relative to its lockdown lifting roadmap.”
 
Cineworld improves liquidity with $213m convertible bond: Cineworld has announced it has secured binding commitments from a group of leading institutional investors for a new $213m (£156m) convertible bond due 2025. It said the net proceeds of the issue of the bond will provide further liquidity for the group in the event of continued disruption as a result of covid-19. It said the bond, together with the expected US Cares Act tax refund, will provide the group with a liquidity runway to year-end in the event that cinemas remain closed. The bond will carry a coupon of 7.5% per annum and will be convertible into ordinary shares of the group. It comes as the company reported group revenue for the year to the end of 2020 stood at $852.3m (2019: $4,369.7m) and group adjusted Ebitda was a loss of $115.1m (2019: profit of $1,580.3m) as the period was “severely impacted” by closures. Operating loss stood at ($2,257.7m) (2019: profit of $724.7m), which the business said had been impacted by asset impairments of $1,344.5m. The company raised $810.8m of additional liquidity during the period, including issuance of equity warrants, and also obtained group leverage covenant waivers until June 2022. The business said it anticipated cinema reopenings from 2 April in the US, 17 May in the UK and May 2021 in the rest of the world supported by a strong pipeline of movies and current indication that government restrictions will be lifted. It said there is a strong pent-up demand for affordable out-of-home entertainment anticipated post reopening due to the covid-19 pandemic as indicated by the theatrical industry performing well in reopened markets such as China, Japan and Australia. On the new bond, Mooky Greidinger, chief executive of Cineworld, said: “The bond provides the group with a significant liquidity buffer as we reopen across the world. We remain confident about the next chapter of our development and we look forward to welcoming our customers back to the best place to watch a movie.” Commenting on these results, Greidinger said: “Covid-19 has created a huge amount of stress and uncertainty, both in business and in our personal lives. At Cineworld, I never imagined a time that we would see the closure of our entire cinema estate, nor that varying restrictions would remain in place for so long as we continue to navigate our way through this crisis. I am immensely proud and inspired by the response of our people to these very difficult circumstances. We have worked hard to strengthen the long-term prospects of the business and, looking forward, Cineworld enters 2021 confident about the next chapter in our development; not least the intention to reopen our cinemas starting 2 April.”

Ten Entertainment Group chairman to step down: Ten Entertainment Group has announced Nick Basing is to step down as chairman. A process to appoint his successor will now commence. It is anticipated Basing will leave the business in September, following an orderly transition and handover period. Basing, who has been chairman for six of the 12 years, he has been involved with the company, has been instrumental in the development of Ten Entertainment, growing Ebitda tenfold during his tenure and growing like-for-like sales for eight consecutive years between 2012 and 2020 prior to the onset of the pandemic. Reflecting this performance, at its peak pre-covid, the business was valued at circa £200m. Basing said: “It has been an extraordinary experience which I am privileged to have enjoyed. I am humbled to have been entrusted with the leadership of this world-class business. I am proud we are regarded as a market leader and have aimed to set the standards in innovation and customer service at every moment. I believe we are at the sweet-spot of experiential leisure which over the years the team has helped to pioneer. I am confident to be leaving the business in the excellent hands of our first-class leadership and a strong board. It has been a great chapter in my life and I have thoroughly enjoyed these last 12 years.”
 
Aviva to snub Deliveroo flotation over workers’ rights concerns: British fund manager Aviva has said it will shun Deliveroo’s London listing because of the way the food delivery firm treats workers. In what is expected to be the biggest float in a decade, Deliveroo will make its stock market debut next month, valued at as much as £8.8bn. But Aviva said it would not be buying shares because Deliveroo does not pay riders the minimum wage or offer holiday and sick leave. Aviva chief investment officer David Cumming said socially conscious investors were taking such issues “a lot more seriously”. He told the BBC that Deliveroo staff “don’t necessarily get basic rights”. He added: “So it is a combination of investment risk and social issues that affect our judgement.” Deliveroo insists its riders are self-employed. But a recent Supreme Court verdict on the status of Uber’s drivers, ruled they were in fact workers. Deliveroo claims the ruling does not apply to its riders.

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