New UK measures place 98% of hospitality trade under tough restrictions

Under the new tier system announced by the UK government today, 98% of the country’s hospitality trade will now take place in tier 2 and 3 regions, according to trade organisation UKHospitality. It says that should the restrictions last the entire month of December, an estimated £7.8bn worth of trading is set to be lost, compared to 2019’s figures.

The new restrictions designed to combat the spread of COVID-19 come into force when the current lockdown ends in England at midnight on 2 December, and allow pubs in tier 2 regions to open only if they serve substantial meals. Under tier 3, pubs and restaurants must close their doors but can offer takeaways.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “The new tier system will deliver another huge blow to hospitality, with 98% of trade now happening in tier 2 or 3 regions. These are safe spaces for people to meet, relax and socialise and the sector is desperate to get staff back to work, open their doors and, in the long term, diminish reliance on the public purse and begin driving economic recovery.”

The new tiers will see over 120,000 venues across England placed into tier 2, with tens of thousands of these forced to close as they are unable to provide a table meal, either physically or financially. UKHospitality says that this affects the employment of nearly 1.5m people, with 94% of the sector saying the new restrictions will see their businesses become unviable or trade at a loss.

For the 38,000 businesses in tier 3, employing over 540,000, there is no option but to provide takeaway or close altogether said Nicholls. “We still have not seen any evidence that hospitality venues – which have invested great time effort and money to making their spaces COVID-secure – are a problem area in terms of infection, so it seems unfair and arbitrary that hospitality is being dealt such a harsh hand.

“It is now more vital than ever that the government provides urgent further financial support for this sector. If it does not, we are looking at huge numbers of job losses, businesses permanently closed and the landscape of hospitality in this country fundamentally degraded for the foreseeable future.”

UKHospitality is urging the government to provide additional support, including a replacement for the Job Retention Bonus Scheme and an extension to the rent moratoria that has helped some businesses manage the cost of their premises.

Data from HMRC shows that almost 50,000 pubs, cafes and restaurants took part in the UK government’s Eat Out to Help Out initiative during the summer, with discounts provided for more than 160m meals.

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