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Wed 15th Dec 2021 - Update: NTIA's covid passport warning, Hollywood Bowl, Tom Kerridge, Cineworld et al
NTIA – these additional restrictions will jeopardise the survival of businesses in 2022: Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), has said covid passports for nightclubs, which were voted into law last night (Tuesday, 14 December), will jeopardise the survival of businesses in 2022. Kill said: “We are disappointed MPs have voted in to law covid passports for nightclubs. The NTIA has consistently opposed their introduction due to the many logistical challenges they pose for night-time economy businesses and what we have seen in Scotland and Wales where they have dampened trade by 30% and 26% respectively. It is very disappointing that, after flip flopping on the issue twice, the government has decided to press ahead with the plans despite no evidence of their impact on transmission of the virus. This is a slippery path we are going down. I would urge the government to listen to its backbenchers now – this far and no further. The government’s public health messaging over the last two weeks has cost the industry billions in trade, lost stock and staff hours. These additional restrictions will jeopardise the survival of businesses in 2022 – we need urgent additional support now. And it goes without saying that if more measures are increased we need a proportionate support package including a return of the furlough scheme. Our members have supported the national pandemic effort for over two years, closing when they were asked, limiting trade, working with guidelines which took investment on new mitigations and training to be able to open their doors, and keep customers and staff safe. Despite this, they are facing yet more sacrifice, which will stretch even the most prepared businesses across our sector. Let the government not forget what they have shown when addressing support for businesses that are overburdened with debt and at the sharpest end of the pandemic restrictions.”

Propel Premium Advent Video Calendar to feature Roland Horne: Propel has launched its Premium Advent Video Calendar, giving subscribers access to a great video each day in December from our autumn conference series. Each day in December in the run-up to Christmas, Premium subscribers will be sent a video featuring some of the sector’s leading operators, who will share insights, advice and expertise. The next video – which will be sent at 9am today (Wednesday, 15 December) – features WatchHouse founder and chief executive Roland Horne, who talks about how the coffee operator adapted during the crisis, the launch and success of its subscription model, and its plans for expansion both in the UK and internationally. Earlier this month, Premium subscribers received the fifth edition of The New Openings Database, which is produced in association with StarStock. The database showed the details of 366 newly announced site openings and upcoming launches. Premium subscribers also receive access to two other databases – the Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, and the Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. To subscribe, email jo.charity@propelinfo.com

Hollywood Bowl reports 28.6% like-for-like revenue growth since reopening on 17 May: Hollywood Bowl has reported a 28.6% increase in like-for-like revenue growth since the reopening of its estate on 17 May. The company said it saw record revenue levels of £20.1m in August, with like-for-like revenue up 50% versus August 2019. It said it had seen 17.6% like-for-like game volume growth since reopening on 17 May compared with FY2019, while like-for-like spend per game increased by 9.6% to £10.29. The company said it had made “excellent progress with new centre rollout and refurbishments”, with three refurbishments completed and five to seven planned for FY2022. Two new Hollywood Bowl (including Resorts World, Birmingham) and two Puttstars centres are opening in FY2022, and the company said it was on track to open a further ten to 14 new centres by the end of FY2024. The group said it had made an excellent start to FY2022, and was well positioned for the future, with like-for-like revenue growth for October and November of 38.1% versus FY2019. Total revenue for the year to 30 September 2021 was £71.9m, down 9.6% compared with FY2020. The business reported group adjusted Ebitda of £30.6m for the year (2020: £29.8m), with positive cash generation in all months since reopening. Chief executive Stephen Burns said: “The past year has been challenging but also rewarding. I am delighted about the excellent performance since reopening, including delivering record activity for both a single day and an entire month, exceeding our FY2019 trading levels on a like-for-like basis, and delivering a profit for the year. I am proud of all of our team members who have worked hard to achieve this success. Notwithstanding the ongoing uncertainties regarding covid-19 restrictions, we remain confident in the continued strong ongoing demand for fun, safe and family-friendly experiences. Our strong balance sheet and highly cash generative business model means we are well positioned to continue our refurbishment programme and rollout of both the Hollywood Bowl and Puttstars brands."

Pub landlords demand Rishi Sunak bails them out with two million fewer pints being served a day: Chancellor Rishi Sunak is facing demands to bail out pubs — as they warn they are already serving two million fewer pints a day. The Sun reports Sunak is under pressure from Tory MPs worried the Omicron wave will hammer pubs. Landlords are saying that takings are down by 25% in cities and by 10% in the countryside compared with typical Christmases as customers call off parties. Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris fumed in the Treasury’s WhatsApp group: “Whether you do or do not further restrict the hospitality sector they are going to take a hit. These restrictions instil fear and people will cancel outings and parties. What support will be available? This is their busiest time of the year, the takings from which keep them solvent. That will crash!” Another MP, Andrew Selous, added: “Many will not get through January and February without their usual Christmas takings.” Pub bosses warned even less draconian restrictions such as vaccine passports or table service-only would leave 10,000 pubs at risk. British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The advice to work from home has already destroyed Christmas for pubs. Further restrictions would be disastrous. Pubs need all the trade they can get this Christmas to make it through the quiet winter months ahead. Without it, they will need a full financial package from the government.”

Tom Kerridge warns 'restaurants will crumble' after hundreds cancel bookings due to new coronavirus restrictions: Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge has warned “places will crumble without help” due to new covid restrictions. He posted a video on Instagram showing pages and pages of cancelled bookings at one of his restaurants in the past six days – totalling 654 guests. “I completely understand why and have no problem with them letting us know,” he said. “Public health is the most important thing. The problem is what will the government do to support the hospitality industry? Many places are going to crumble without help. And before some gammon-faced idiot says 'you can afford it fat lad!'… yes I probably can, but this isn't about me or my restaurants. It's about our industry and people's livelihoods.”

Prepare to bring back furlough, IMF tells Rishi Sunak: Chancellor Rishi Sunak must be ready to bring back the furlough scheme to save shops and restaurants, the International Monetary Fund has warned as the spread of the Omicron variant threatens further restrictions on the economy. The Telegraph reports the international financial stability watchdog said the chancellor should be ready to reintroduce targeted measures to limit the economic damage from any new rules. Whitehall officials are reportedly considering a “Plan C” including mandating table service in pubs to ensure social distancing. In its latest review of the UK economy, the IMF predicted growth of 6.8% this year and 5.5% in 2022, with “a mild slowdown” in the early months of the new year. Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, said face-to-face industries would need particular support in a lockdown. “Should there be the need for more restrictive measures, especially affecting contact-intensive sectors, then the policy support will have to be calibrated accordingly,” she said. It comes after business groups called on the chancellor to offer more support to companies hit by falling sales as commuters were urged to work from home instead of travelling into city centres. The British Chambers of Commerce said VAT should be cut back to 5% for the hospitality and tourism industries, repeating the emergency tax cut offered last year.

Unemployment falls despite end of furlough scheme: Unemployment has remained stable despite the end of the furlough scheme in September, official figures show. The Times reports there was a marginal drop of 0.1 percentage points in the joblessness rate to 4.2% between August and October — a relatively painless end to the scheme, which supported more than 11 million workers during the pandemic. The number of employees on payrolls has risen to pre-pandemic levels as companies hired 257,000 staff in November, taking the total to 29.4 million, according to the Office for National Statistics. During the quarter, employers created fewer jobs than had been predicted, with the number of employees up by 149,000, or 0.5%, compared with the three months to July. Economists had forecast an increase of 228,000. The number of job vacancies rose to a new record of 1.2 million in November, with a global recruiter warning of a mismatch in expectations that could lead to a worker exodus in the new year. Almost three-quarters of employees expect pay rises, while only a quarter of employers plan to offer them, according to a survey of 6,000 professional and office-based staff by analysts at Robert Walters, the recruitment agency. Two-thirds of those expecting a pay increase plan to leave their jobs if they are not offered better terms in January. Average weekly earnings rose 4.9% year-on-year in the August-October quarter, exceeding the 4.6% forecast by City analysts. Maintaining a lower rate of wage growth than inflation into next year will enable the Bank’s monetary policy committee to raise interest rates at a slower pace than investors expect, according to Samuel Tombs at the consultancy Pantheon Macroeconomics. He said the labour market “still has just enough slack to prevent wage growth from keeping up with inflation”. Indeed, October’s 3.8% year-over-year growth rate of average weekly wages, excluding bonuses, undershot [consumer prices index] inflation for the first time since June 2020. “Admittedly, the main rate of the national living wage will increase by 6.6% in April, and public sector wage growth will pick up now that the pay freeze has ended,” Tombs said. He added that most companies were managing to control pay rises across the board.

Cineworld to appeal after Cineplex awarded C$1.24bn in damages over takeover lawsuit: Canadian cinema chain Cineplex has announced the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled in its favour in a breach of contract lawsuit brought against Cineworld Group. Cineplex said it had been awarded damages of C$1.24bn (£720m) in lost synergies from the abandoned takeover deal and C$5.5m in transaction costs and the Canadian court denied Cineworld’s counterclaim against its former takeover target. Cineplex president and chief executive Ellis Jacob said: “We are pleased the court found Cineplex acted properly throughout this difficult period in our history. With roots that go back more than 100 years, we are proud of the relationships we have maintained through this process and remain steadfastly committed to our guests, shareholders and team across Canada and the United States.”. In June 2020, Cineworld called off its planned C$2.1bn takeover of Cineplex, which would have created one of the world’s largest cinema companies with more than 11,200 screens globally, just as the pandemic shuttered theatres. Cineplex rebuffed Cineworld’s claim it had breached the terms of their merger agreement and said it would take legal action to recover damages as the transaction did not proceed. Cineworld said it will appeal the Canadian court decision. The company said: “Cineworld defended these proceedings on the basis that it had terminated the Arrangement Agreement because Cineplex breached a number of its covenants and counter-claimed against Cineplex for damages and losses suffered as a result of these breaches and the acquisition not proceeding, including Cineworld's financing costs, advisory fees and other costs. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has now handed down its judgment. It granted Cineplex's claim, dismissed Cineworld's counter-claim and awarded Cineplex damages of C$1.24m for lost synergies to Cineplex and C$5.5m for lost transaction costs. Cineworld disagrees with this judgment and will appeal the decision. Cineworld does not expect damages to be payable while any appeal is ongoing.”

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