Closure of hospitality until July would be 'catastrophic', says pub boss
- Credit: Adnams
Hospitality bosses say the industry could be dealt "a hammer blow" if pubs and restaurants are forced to stay closed until July after the government reportedly extended its lockdown powers.
Pub bosses in Suffolk have called for more support from the government following a report by the Daily Telegraph that powers have been granted to local councils which could see pubs, restaurants, shops and public places being closed until July 17.
Landlords in Suffolk have described this possibility as "a hammer blow" but said the health of the public is most important.
Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams, said the possible closure until the summer would be "very bad news" for the industry.
"It would be catastrophic," said Mr Wood, who has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak asking for more support for the sector.
He said public health is "paramount" and people must be kept safe, but he is concerned as the current support measures in place for the hospitality industry expire in March and April.
The sector is facing what he described as the "cliff-edge".
He said a support package must be provided if this prolonged closure does go ahead, including an extension of the business rate relief, the flexi-furlough scheme and the VAT reduction.
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"Adnams is fortunate as we have a diversified portfolio, with our own shops, online business and working with supermarket retailers," he explained.
"But the hospitality industry is on its knees after a bad December and January, so this would deal a hammer blow to many businesses."
He believes this will hit the younger people the most, as many go into the hospitality industry to set out on their job journey.
He thinks the government is following a more cautious principle than previous lockdowns, moving to an "under-promise and over-deliver" strategy.
Dan Lightfoot is the landlord at the Greyhound pub in Ipswich, which is a tenant of Adnams brewery.
He has closed the pub in Henley Road for the last six weeks following the town's high infection rate but is hoping to resume his takeaway and delivery service next week.
"The industry has been hit hard and it is difficult to keep surviving," said Mr Lightfoot.
"We are just waiting for the news that we are allowed to reopen, but I think we will be shut for a while yet. Until we are given the green light to go, we just have to sit tight and keep everyone safe."
Mr Lightfoot said he thinks pubs will be the last to come out of lockdown, stressing that the industry will need further support from the government to avoid lots of redundancies.
Ross Parrock, who is the operations manager at the Anchor Inn in Nayland, said he is quietly confident the hospitality industry will be able to reopen by May.
He said: "The general feeling amongst the hospitality industry is that it feels unlikely we will be closed until July. I think the government has just extended the law as it expired this week.
"But safety is paramount, and we are living in very uncertain times. We all have to do our bit to keep people safe."
Mr Parrock said the hospitality industry has been affected the most by Covid-19, with the sector's latest unemployment figures highlighting this discrepancy.
"This has been crippling for some business," he said.
"We are in a very lucky position, but for smaller businesses and leaseholders of pubs, it has been very difficult.
"Without the furlough and the government grants we would not have survived."
He feels hospitality has been "hit the hardest" by the pandemic, despite it being at the bottom of the list of places you are most likely to catch the disease.
"We are the safest venue and we have become experts in this field, but for some reason we keep being closed while other venues can stay open," he said.
"It has been very stop start for us all along, but I hope the government gives us more time and clear guidance to allow us to reopen safely."