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Mon 22nd Feb 2021 - More operators condemn government over sector reopening plans
More operators condemn government over sector reopening plans: More industry operators have condemned the government over its plans for reopening the sector. 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, with indoor operation not returning to at least mid-May. Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of brewer and retailer Greene King, said: “We understand there needs to be a sensible easing out of lockdown, but are disappointed not to be able to open alongside non-essential retail, gyms and hairdressers. Opening pub gardens in April simply isn’t viable so many pubs will have to remain closed and, with a phased reopening from May, next week’s Budget needs to bring positive news as we continue to burn tens of millions of pounds in cash every month. As we look to June, we need clarity on what the full lifting of restrictions looks like so we can plan for pubs to be open as normal once more.” Chris Soley, chief executive of north east-based brewer and pub operator Camerons Brewery, added: “Well, it’s over to you now Rishi Sunak to save hospitality. Boris Johnson and the Treasury so far fail to understand that outdoor only hospitality means 85% will remain closed and those that open will continue to lose money. Urgent financial intervention is needed including fully paid furlough (no employer national insurance/pension), increased grants to cover all costs, commitment to VAT and duty cuts plus a continued rates holiday for at least 12 months following full reopening. There must also be a rent solution and longer time to pay on tax liabilities/government loans. Otherwise, all the public money spent so far is wasted and the consequences are that hundreds of thousands of jobs are lost, thousands of vital community pubs are closed forever, and hundreds of viable businesses are bust causing economic catastrophe. Step up Rishi Sunak so we, the hospitality sector which is such a major part of our economy, can eventually lead us out of this financial crisis. Don’t use this part opening as an excuse to pull the rug. It will backfire disastrously.” Matt Grech-Smith, co-chief executive of Swingers, said: “I’m all for caution and safety, but waiting until 17 May, when we will have been closed for six months, seems ridiculously extreme. I’m currently in New York City working on the expansion of our business and here restaurants and bars are allowed to open at 25% capacity (increasing shortly to 35%). Across the board, these venues are being operated safely while moving incrementally back towards normal trading. When will the UK government recognise hospitality can be opened safely now, and stop treating the industry like it can’t be trusted?” Marcos Fernandez Pardo, chief executive of Iberica and Arros QD, added: “The possibility to trade is the first answer to all problems. However, the forced closures of businesses that was not accompanied by the forced closure to landlords and banks is still a problem caused by government actions to those businesses and needs an answer by the same government. The whole country needed to make an effort in this fight, but it is really unbalanced how this government is sharing the burden.” Mohammad Paknejad, co-founder of Nutshell Covent Garden, said: “Unfortunately, businesses are paying the price for the never ending chain of mistakes made by this rather incompetent populist government. Regarding the speech in the parliament today, it should have been followed by another speech or at least a press release from the Treasury informing businesses on how it will be supported during the rest of this extremely long period of mandated closures. Now, the only thing businesses know is they won’t be having any revenue anytime soon. Thus, a lot of businesses might resort to laying off more staff or closing their premises until the government scrambles for another pathetic attempt at supporting the economy.” Brodie Meah, co-founder of Top Cuvee in London, added: “It’s good to hear the government acknowledge the economy and committing to it being irreversible but the opposition is right to say the financial support should be set out today. We're happy people can serve outside but how does that affect restaurants like ours with no outdoor capacity? It’s the same thing with reopening indoors. The prime minister mentioned capacity limits. What will they be?! We need more details to help plan.” Exclusive Collection managing director Danny Pecorelli said: “It’s hugely disappointing once again hospitality is last in the queue to reopening, despite the enormous efforts made to provide safe and secure environments and the lack of evidence of hospitality driving transmission rates. We are going to lose so many more amazing restaurants, pubs, cafes and hotels even if the chancellor does pull all the stops out during the Budget. Three more months of being unable to fully trade will be the final straw for many.”


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