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Sun 17th May 2020 - UKHospitality calls for far-reaching government action on rent to protect millions of sector jobs
UKHospitality calls for far-reaching government action on rent to protect millions of sector jobs: UKHospitality has written to the government urging it to intervene and broker a solution that solves the current stalemate on rent in the sector. Without this, the trade associations warned, there would be widescale job losses and business failures in the coming months. In a letter to business secretary Alok Sharma, UKHospitality has highlighted, despite an announced moratorium on enforcement action, hospitality businesses are still being aggressively pursued by a minority of landlords. The trade body said these businesses, the vast majority of which have virtually no income and are closed during lock-down, are still being threatened with winding-up petitions, having deposit funds taken and being served with County Court Judgements. In circumstances where landlords have offered rent deferrals, this will just lead to an accrual of debt that will be “incredibly hard to pay back as hospitality businesses will be trading below normal levels for the foreseeable future”. UKHospitality warned although the government has urged tenants and landlords to work together to find solutions, “the commercial property market is effectively broken”. The letter calls on the government to urgently step in to broker a solution at a high-level ministerial summit, based on involving all relevant stakeholders; government intervention – both financially and legislatively; and the assumption the vast majority of hospitality and leisure businesses would not be able to pay rent for the remainder of 2020. It said there must be a “sharing of the pain” between tenants, landlords, investors and government and action must be taken swiftly, with a resolution before the next quarterly rent date at the end of June. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “In June, sector businesses are due to pay almost £800m in rent, having been forcibly closed and generated no income for more than three months. Having discussed this issue with a vast number of industry bodies, it’s clear we need a ‘national time out’ on rent as the vast majority of hospitality and leisure businesses will simply not be able to pay for the rest of the year.”

Ministers considering allowing restaurants and pubs to operate street stalls: Cafes, pubs and restaurants would be allowed to sell food and drink from street stalls within weeks under plans being considered by ministers to gradually ease the lock-down. Businesses that hold licences to have tables and chairs at the front of their premises are to be allowed to set up market-style stalls instead, as part of a bid to begin reviving high streets before pubs and eateries can begin opening their doors to customers, potentially in the summer. Under plans being spearheaded by Robert Jenrick, the housing and local government secretary, the government will issue guidance allowing shops, restaurants and pubs to set up stalls in front of their premises in areas on which they already have a licence to place tables and chairs. The move comes after minsters previously relaxed planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak. A Whitehall source told the Sunday Telegraph it could lead to a “more vibrant style of continental town centres in the summer”, if infection rates continue to reduce. Government scientists have said the risk of covid-19 being transmitted outdoors is significantly lower than indoors. Ministers are even considering a “blanket permission” for restaurants and cafes to make use of public squares or pedestrianised streets above a certain width for stalls, or chairs and tables once customers are allowed to eat on their premises again and where the furniture would not block routes for disabled people. A second Whitehall source said: “We're trying to find small, simple changes that could have a profound impact on small businesses, and enable them to adapt and evolve.”

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