Pubs, cafes and restaurants’ relief at new three-tier lockdown

Making Suffolk a “medium risk” area in the government’s new three-tier Covid-19 lockdown would give pubs, cafes, restaurants and other hospitality firms vital “breathing space”, business leaders have said,

Prime minister Boris Johnson launched a three-tier system of local alert levels for England, with Suffolk likely to be placed in the least serious “medium” risk category.

The medium alert level consists consist of the current national measures, including the rule of six and the 10pm curfew.

Paul Simon, head of communications and campaigns at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said the government’s decision would “provide some breathing space for our business community, especially those companies in ‘at risk’ sectors such as hospitality”.

However, he said: “With Covid-19 infection rates in the east rising steeply, it is absolutely imperative that the government sorts out the test and trace system once and for all.

MORE: Fix container problems at Felixstowe Port, government urged“With over six months to get it right, it is extremely worrying that Suffolk firms could once again be forced to close and pay the price for the government’s failures in this regard. No amount of fiscal support – very welcome though the many schemes have been – is a substitute for a functioning UK economy.”

Nick Attfield, director of properties at Suffolk brewer and pub chain Adnams, said he welcomed the lack of changes for Suffolk.

“I’m relieved that there’s nothing else that is affecting us, so we can continue doing what we’ve always been doing in a safe and secure manner.

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“If we do go into closure, we welcome the fact that there is government support from the job support scheme.

“It provides a safety net and we’re grateful for anything that helps us to protect jobs and allows us to reopen as quickly as possible.”

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Suffolk-based pub giant Greene King, said of the new national system: “Once again pubs have been unfairly hit and, after today’s announcement, our team members and tenants face yet more uncertainty.

“We need urgent clarity on the definition of pubs and bars versus restaurants, as well as further financial support, as this isn’t just about the areas where sites are having to close – pubs across the country are becoming increasingly unviable with the restrictions being placed on them.

“Right now, we’re looking to the government to provide light at the end of the tunnel by taking a longer-term approach to help hospitality businesses plan for the future and weather this storm.

“Specifically, this means extending furlough to cover all hospitality venues hit by restrictions, not just those forced to close, extending the VAT cut and business rates holiday and cutting beer duty.”

MORE: New three-tier Covid lockdown system ‘welcomed’ in SuffolkFederation of Small Businesses (FSB) East of England chairwoman Seena Shah said funding was necessary for the system to work.

She said: “Small businesses recognise that safety must come first.

“However, there’s no escaping the fact that this new system will mean huge disruption for small firms, many of which have borne the brunt of restrictions over the last six months.

“Businesses that have spent thousands on safety measures for their premises, and made every effort to follow existing guidelines, could now be told to close.

“Any further restrictions placed on them should be evidence-led – transparency is a must.

“The tier system will only work if the funding for business support and guidance to accompany it is sufficient, crystal clear and timely.

“Government at all levels must ensure that the critical measures announced on Friday are easily accessible from day one.

“The additional £1billion to bolster the Towns Fund announced today is encouraging to see.

“These must be seen as a starting point for the evolution of business support measures, not an end point, especially as we head into the crucial festive season.

“Far too many are still excluded from the Government’s efforts to help business owners – not least company directors and the newly self-employed. A rescue package for these groups is urgently needed.

“We’ve always said that the delivery of the world-beating test-and-trace system that we were promised months ago is central to getting our small business community firing on all cylinders again.

“The government is right to extend greater funding and support to strengthen test-and-trace efforts at the local level, and business owners across the country will be looking forward to improvements on this front.

“Policymakers should now be looking at cross-cutting interventions to spur growth, start-ups and future job creation as our economy is changed for the long-term.

“Bringing down Employer National Insurance Contributions and lifting the business rates burden for more small firms would be good places to start.”