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Thu 1st Apr 2021 - As many as 30,000 sites could close if the government does not stick to lockdown lifting plan
As many as 30,000 sites could close if the government does not stick to lockdown lifting plan: Up to 30,000 pubs, bars and restaurants will close if ministers do not stick to the roadmap out of lockdown, UKHospitality has warned. Thousands of businesses are ‘clinging on with their fingertips’ and could soon tumble into insolvency. Premises are closing at a faster rate this year than last, with 42 shutting their doors every day in 2021, up from 30 a day last year, the data from UK Hospitality said. Close to 12,000 licensed premises closed permanently between December 2019 and February 2021. The figures led one leading pub boss to urge ministers to ‘relinquish emergency powers and Big Brother micromanagement’ and open up the economy. The hospitality sector has already missed out on more than £86 billion of sales in the year since the first lockdown was introduced, and 660,000 jobs have disappeared from the sector. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, addressing the Confederation of British Industry yesterday, said: “For many businesses, they are clinging on with [their] fingertips. You are looking at potentially 20,000 to 30,000 sites [closing].” She added that a third of hospitality venues did not open last summer because they were unable to comply with strict social distancing and tier restrictions. The stark figures led more industry leaders to demand the roadmap out of lockdown be accelerated. Tim Martin, the founder of Wetherspoons which has 875 outlets, said: “Once the vulnerable – the over-50s – are vaccinated the country should revert to normal. Denmark’s PM said last Monday that almost all restrictions would be lifted there when under-50s are vaccinated – the UK will be much slower to relinquish emergency powers and Big Brother micromanagement.” Sacha Lord, Manchester’s night time economy tsar, who is spearheading a legal challenge to the roadmap, said: “We can see clear opportunities for an acceleration of reopening plans given the current case numbers and vaccination progress.” The comments came amid a row over the resumption of Test and Trace. Government rules published on Tuesday revealed that any pub or restaurant goer who refuses to hand over their contact details under Track and Trace will be barred. When hospitality was open before only one person per group was required to provide their details. The guidance said hospitality businesses must ‘take reasonable steps to refuse entry to those who refuse to check in or provide contact details’. Any business which does not comply will face fines. A spokesman for Mitchells and Butlers said: “Extending Test and Trace to all customers will add further stress to already stretched businesses. We recognise the good intentions and will of course comply, but we question how useful the collection of all this data will be. When this requirement was introduced after the first lockdown we collected vast amounts of guest data, but hardly any of it was ever used by NHS Test and Trace.’ Nicholls added: ‘This new obligation puts an unfair and potentially unworkable burden on operators and risks conflict with customers.”

Starmer – Covid vaccine passports would be un-British: Covid passports being used for everyday social activities once the pandemic has eased would be against the “British instinct”, Sir Keir Starmer has told The Telegraph. In his most critical comments on the idea to date, the Labour leader said in an interview that the government must not leave it to pub landlords to decide whether to make such checks. Starmer stressed that using covid status certificates in the UK was a complex issue, adding that he would scrutinise government proposals before deciding whether to oppose them. But he said: “My instinct is that, as the vaccine is rolled out, as the number of hospital admissions and deaths go down, there will be a British sense that we don’t actually want to go down this road.”

Administrators of Authentic Alehouses sell pub, offers made on five other sites but below market value: The administrators of the seven-strong Authentic Alehouses has sold one of the sites and received a further offer on another, Propel has learned. The Crown Inn in Addingham has been sold for £260,000, slightly under the revised RICS valuation of £280,000. Meanwhile, a further offer has been made on The Wakey Tavern in Wakefield and a deal is expected to complete shortly. The administrators – Simon Bonney and Michael Kiely, of Quantuma – put the entire portfolio back on the market in January. Offers have since been made for the remaining five pubs, but are “currently below the revised RICS valuation”. The update was revealed in an email to investors by secured creditor Crowdstacker, which has been seen by Propel. It stated: “At this stage, we believe it is best to reopen the pubs and then look to sell once the stability of the hospitality industry is more certain. We are also continuing to explore the possibility of conversion into a residential development on one of the sites to increase return to investors.” Crowdstacker said it plans to reopen the four pubs that were operating prior to the pandemic. The Ponty Tavern in Pontefract will open early in April “due to having a large outdoor space” while The Fountain Inn in Barnoldswick, The Countess of Rosse in Shipley and The Albert Hotel in Hull are likely to reopen later once all the restrictions are lifted. The remaining two sites – the Crown Inn in Addingham and The Red Lion in Driffield – will stay shut. Allan Harper-led Authentic Alehouses entered administration in March 2019 despite raising £6.4m in peer-to-peer loans via Crowdstacker. Simon Bonney and Michael Kiely, of Quantuma, were appointed joint administrators. Authentic Alehouses launched in July 2017 with a £5m crowdfunding campaign on Crowdstacker that was later doubled. Harper also led Burning Night Group, which went into administration in October 2018 after raising £7.5m on the same platform. Two months later, Burning Night Group was bought out of administration by a special purpose vehicle created by turnaround specialist Access Commercial Finance, which was a secured creditor of Burning Night Group.

Venue Group to launch outdoor drinking and dining site near Borough Market: Venue Group, which is headed by Ben Lovett of folk rock band Mumford & Sons, is to launch an outdoor drinking and dining site, near London’s Borough Market. The company is opening St Felix Place in Southwark Street on Wednesday, 14 April. The outdoor space will feature a taproom called St Felix Brewery, which is tie-up between Venue Group and the Lagunitas Brewing Company. It will offer beer, whiskey and southern state cocktails. Bermondsey restaurant Texas Joe’s will be serving Tex-Mex barbecue at Texas Joe’s Adobe while The Good Slice will offer its selection of pizza, reports Hot Dinners. Venue Group launched its debut live music venue, Omeara, in Southwark in late 2016, which remains closed as a result of the pandemic. The company took over the running of the wider development of Flat Iron Square in Southwark in 2017 and launched music, drinks and street food concept Goods Way in King’s Cross in March last year.

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