Hospitality sector voices anger at Government decision to advise people to stay at home

Sacha Lord

Restaurant and bar owners have reacted with fury at the Government’s stance on coronavirus.

In his press conference yesterday Boris Johnson advised people to avoid bars and restaurants for the foreseeable future.

But the Prime Minister stopped short of ordering public places to shut their doors.

Many bar owners claim they have been left in limbo by the government’s stance.

Businesses will not be able to claim for insurance if the current policy remains in place.

Sacha Lord – Great Manchester’s night-time economy tsar – said: “First and foremost, I am overwhelmingly disappointed with the measures today.

“Greater Manchester’s bars, clubs, restaurants and nightlife are the heart of our region and I know how devastating this latest news will be to all owners.

“The uncertainty this measure has placed on the hospitality sector is likely to be crippling and I know most, if not all, operators will currently be feeling scared for their futures.

“The move to advise customers to avoid pubs and clubs, rather than implementing an outright closure, combined with no end date, will affect the rights that venue owners have with regards to insurance claims.

“I am in touch with my equivalent Night Economy Advisers across the world and we are one of the only countries not to provide a specific timeframe.

“With this in mind, I will be actively talking to Government to try to ensure businesses are able to protect themselves and survive through these trying times, including being able to claim on business interruption insurance. I know this will be imperative for some operators, and I want you to know I am and will continue to fight hard to support you. You are not alone.”

Rachel Choudhary, who recently opened Ancoats restaurant Street Urchin together with her husband Kevin, voiced her anger.

She said: “It’s so disingenuous and so wishy washy to say restaurants can stay open but probably don’t go. That’s just a cop out.

“We’re so new and so young and so fragile. We’ve worked so hard, everything we have in the world is in this restaurant. We have no back up, our pockets aren’t deep.

“I really don’t know what to do.

“More than anything I hope everyone who has people who are at risk will be fine. Money is only money but I have a team of people I have made promises to and I feel very responsible for that.”

David Fox, the owner of Manchester restaurant group Tampopo,  said the government’s stance left hospitality companies with no financial support.

He said: “I’m now in a position with 150 members of staff and zero income.

“What am I supposed to do?”

“The reality is hospitality is one of the largest employers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the consequences of these recommendations, and therefore it would be sensible to have Government support.

“For me, underwriting it to 100% is not sustainable. I did some sums based on a 50% drop off in sales and, at that, we would be making a loss of nearly £600,000 over three months.”

Kate Nicholls, of UK Hospitality, said: “This is catastrophic for businesses and jobs. The Government has effectively shut the hospitality industry without any support.

“This announcement will lead to thousands of businesses closing their doors for good and hundreds of thousands of job losses.

“The industry has suffered unprecedented drops in visits and many businesses are already on their knees. This latest advice leaves the industry in limbo.

“The Government must act now to stop them going under and protect people’s jobs.”

Jamie Shail, owner of Rothay Manor a 19 bedroom hotel and restaurant in the Lake District, said: “As an individual I’m concerned about the spread of Coronavirus and as a small business owner I’m really concerned about the lack of tangible action being undertaken by the government.

“This level of panic is unprecedented, both for individuals and businesses and nobody seems to know how this will all play out and that obviously creates real uncertainty across the board.

“Last night the Prime Minister effectively decimated the UK’s hospitality sector advised people to make some significant behavioural changes, avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres, though they stopped short of ordering those businesses to close.

“That statement does nothing other than leave us all in a strange limbo, which could last for weeks or months.

“The hospitality sector is a huge part of the UK’s economy and at this moment in time we have no idea what is going to happen to us… there are rumours of leaked papers outlining the enforced closure of pubs and restaurants and if this is the case then we’ll deal with that.

“But I like many in the industry want to know what will be in place to help us recover.”