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Sun 19th Dec 2021 - Fuller’s to close 20 of what would have been its busiest sites indefinitely
Emeny – we are closing 20 of what would have been our busiest sites indefinitely: Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller’s, has said that the company is closing 20 of what would have been its busiest sites in London indefinitely, as sales are down between 60% and 80%. Emeny also criticised the “mixed messages” the government has been sending out to consumers in the run-up to Christmas, and described its response to the struggles of the hospitality industry as “pitiful”. He told Sky News: “Operating a large number of units in central London, we’re really in the eye of this hospitality challenge. Being out last night in the centre, it was very, very quiet. The reality in London is that our sales are currently down between 60% and 80%. As a result, we are closing 20 of what would have been our busiest sites indefinitely.” The company’s The Tokenhouse pub in Moorgate tweeted: “Unfortunately, we have had to make the difficult decision to temporarily close until 4 January. Please keep an eye on our website and social channels for updates and we look forward to raising a glass with you again in the New Year.” Emeny blasted the government’s “pitiful” response to the struggles of the hospitality industry. He said: “I think the response has been pitiful and there's very little financial support for anybody at the moment. Engagement with the sector over the last three weeks has been very, very late – and very rushed.” He said the “mixed messages” from the government over Omicron are “clearly not helpful” for the hospitality industry. He said: “It’s confusing customers, and it’s causing a lot of operational difficulties. But clearly the government are being given scientific advice and are attempting to navigate this current crisis. But the only way through this though, having given those mixed messages to customers, is to give financial support to the sector. The country needs a vibrant hospitality sector coming out of this. My worry for everybody at the moment is those staff that aren’t going to be working on Monday who have got families to feed over the Christmas period, who are working for companies who now have zero sales. Who is going to pay them? How are they going to pay their rent, and how are they going to live over the coming weeks and months?" Last week, Clive Watson, chairman of City Pub Group, said he was closing the group’s venues in the City and other office-dominated areas on Friday (17 December) five days early as there was “no one around”. Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie said sales in its pubs in some parts of London are down as much as 70% compared with the same time in 2019.

Sunak weighing emergency measures for hospitality and tourism amid ‘unofficial lockdown’: Rishi Sunak is considering a range of measures, from a fresh emergency VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism industry to additional cash boosts for businesses, after firms were hit by the “unofficial lockdown” resulting from the government's covid-19 advice. The Sunday Telegraph reports that the chancellor was holding virtual talks yesterday with officials and the prime minister over the details of a potential new bailout package for businesses, following meetings with industry leaders on Friday. Sources said the Treasury was trying to “build up a precise picture about crunch points” for businesses to establish what support was most needed from Whitehall. The move came as a report by the Conservative Party’s official grassroots think tank warned that government intervention had “fostered a sense of entitlement” and left an “uphill task to restore expectations” in the wake of covid-19 handouts. Pubs, restaurants and nightclubs reported a dramatic fall in bookings and a surge in cancellations last week and this weekend after Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and prime minister Boris Johnson warned people to reduce social interaction to help reduce the spread of omicron. A government source said: “We’re not in the same position financially as we were last year. We have to be incredibly precise about what funding is needed and where.” Some industry bodies are pushing for an increase in cash grants to mitigate against significant losses that businesses expect to suffer over the next fortnight. Others are focusing on urging Sunak to revive the emergency rate of 5% VAT for hospitality and tourism firms, and to reinstate the 100% cent business rates relief for retail companies “to give businesses the financial headroom to weather this challenging period”. Last night, the chancellor was said to be considering all of the options while “trying to work out what is the best support, where is it needed and for how long?”

Two-week circuit breaker would ‘close hospitality down’ and ‘plunge sector into more debt’: Industry leaders have reacted with dismay to reports that a two-week circuit breaker could be introduced after Christmas to help combat the spread of the Omicron variant. A report in yesterday’s The Times suggested that the measures would include restricting pubs and restaurants to outdoor service only, yet shops would remain open, and schools be free to open again after the holidays. The report led to fears of the impact such restrictions would have on an-already decimated hospitality industry, and renewed calls for support from the government. UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls tweeted: “A lot of talk in media today about circuit breakers, lockdowns, Jan restrictions. Given we now have 50% triple jabbed and over 90% double vaccinated I struggle to understand why we are still using last year’s interventions – which we know delay at best & cause social/economic harm. This speculation erodes consumer and business confidence and is why bookings and revenues are in freefall. It says PM has not approved the plans & insisted he was not closing things down – let’s be clear, this would close hospitality down at huge cost.” Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, Sacha Lord, tweeted: “The government has closed down my industry with words and there is no financial support. It is insulting. The vast majority of European countries have stood by hospitality. Our government have plunged the whole sector into more debt, devastating businesses and jobs. The lack of support is appalling. Shambolic. I’ve always wondered if the government don’t understand our industry, or just don’t care.” Hospitality Ulster tweeted: “SAGE acknowledge safest place to socialise is in hospitality. Our pubs, restaurants, cafes & hotels simply cannot continue in limbo – open in name only. The current situation is unsustainable & more restrictions without support will designate the sector.” Finance commentator Michael Wilson told GB News: “This is a time when hospitality needs to be making money, and it will be too late for the hospitality industry. If this were to happen, it would clearly be disastrous. Most people are now extremely confused as to what they’re doing, and when people are confused they tend to do nothing and cancel, and that’s what’s happening to the hospitality industry.” Bacteriologist professor Hugh Pennington added: “The big problem is the government seems reluctant to provide the financial support for the hospitality industry. If you’re going to do that, you’ve got to bring the furlough scheme back ASAP. That’s the dilemma for the government – they’re reluctant to do that, but unless they do, the hospitality industry will be destroyed.”

New covid curfews in Ireland would “decimate” the hospitality trade: New covid curfews in Ireland would “decimate” the hospitality trade, industry leaders in the country have warned. The Irish cabinet yesterday agreed that hospitality venues, cinemas and theatres will have a closing time of 8pm from Monday to deal with the threat from the Omicron variant. Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI), said pubs would end up closing their doors for the duration of the restrictions. He said: “This decision will decimate the trade that was already on its knees. Christmas was the one chance we had to recoup some of the losses amassed earlier in the year, but we’re now in a situation where staff will lose their jobs and pubs will shut one week before Christmas as they see little point in opening under these conditions. While government may see 8pm as a compromise, the reality is that many pubs don’t open until 5pm, so three hours trading is unworkable for them. Even for pubs that open earlier, the majority of their trade takes place at night time. Given the relentless public health message over the past number of weeks to avoid socialising, the public had already cancelled bookings in record numbers. There was no need to further restrict trading hours as our customers are safer in regulated pubs that adhere to guidelines instead of house parties and shebeens. Our members are left wondering what the plan is for hospitality.” Chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, said: “The majority of hospitality businesses rely on income from the Christmas period to see them through the quieter first two months of the year. The loss of income over Christmas is about more than just the festive season, it is about surviving the winter months. It is imperative that financial supports are put in place immediately to offset the impact this will have for businesses and their employees and enable them to survive. As a sector and as a country, we need better engagement on what the plan for living with this disease will be going forward. The current last-minute reactionary approach is not working.” Licensed Vintners Association chief executive, Donall O’Keeffe, added: “Obviously we are very disappointed about this decision as it clearly amounts to closure in camouflage. Most of our members will now take the decision to shut their doors as they simply won’t be able to afford operating in these conditions. Many pubs have been expressing the view that they would rather be asked to close than have to accept an arbitrary curfew of 5pm or 8pm. We also seem to be heading towards ongoing, rolling closures of hospitality for as long as the pandemic persists. If that’s going to be the case, then the government should be upfront and tell it straight to the industry. We can’t stay closed indefinitely, yet that increasingly seems to be the government's approach to our sector.”

Aid package from Scottish government ‘wouldn’t cover one or two days of lost turnover’: The Scottish government’s £66m aid package for the hospitality industry would barely scratch the surface of what is needed, according to Stephen Montgomery, of the Scottish Hospitality Group. First minister Nicola Sturgeon on Friday promised the sector two thirds of a £100m cash injection it has found “from its own reserves” to help combat the effect of new covid restrictions on Scottish businesses. Sturgeon has repeatedly asked for more financial support from the UK government, and talks to this end are set to take place via a Cobra meeting including leaders of the devolved administrations. Montgomery told BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme such talks would be crucial to Scottish hospitality as its government’s support package would be nowhere near enough. “It wouldn’t even cover one or two days of loss of turnover for some people, it certainly wouldn’t cover the wages for one week,” he said. “We’ll take it, of course we will, but there has got to be some ongoing talks between the UK and Scottish governments – put all political differences aside and get this sorted out. This is the time of year when we would normally take 30-35% of our annual turnover to see us through January-February time, and the last reports we’ve had in since the Public Health Scotland message came out on Thursday of last week, we’re probably seeing a big impound of turnover lost in Scotland through this.”

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