Published 23 February 2021
by Harriet Prior
Following months of uncertainty, yesterday the Prime Minister revealed his timetable (roadmap is archaic and misleading, in our opinion) for reopening the economy – and the wait for the hospitality industry continues. The four-step plan for the easing with lockdown begins on 8 March, however hospitality will remain closed until the 12 April at the earliest.
To begin, only hospitality venues with outside dining and drinking will be able to open with social content measures in place – including pub gardens with adults able to socialise under the Rule of Six. Luckily, there’s no more rules regarding “substantial meals” – so debates about scotch eggs can end – and the 10pm curfew has been scrapped. Holidays within the UK will also resume from this date.
Looking forward to 17 May, it’s hoped that most social contact rules will have been lifted, and pubs and restaurants will be able to resume indoor dining. However, only two households or groups no bigger than six will be able to meet inside a pub.
While it’s positive to have an end in sight, many in hospitality have reacted with frustration and anger at yesterday’s news. In an article published last night, Jeremy King said that the announcement was “robbing those us who work in the sector the lifeline of the lucrative spring and Easter trade.”
With the government conceding that hospitality venues have hardly been a factor in Covid transmission, King went on to say that despite the industry generating £72 billion a year, we “are offered no proper explanation of how these decisions are reached.” He also correctly noted that outdoor dining is not a viable option for many restaurants, particularly as the weather in April is unreliable. This frustration is shared by Brodie Meah of Top Cuvee, who comments “we’re happy people can serve outside, but how does that affect restaurants like ours with no outdoor capacity? We need more details to help plan.”
Many others in the industry have also expressed disappointment with the announcement. “The whole country needed to make an effort in this fight, but it is really unbalanced how this government is sharing the burden,” says Mercos Fernandez of Iberia and Arros QD.
Mohammad Paknejad, co-founder of Nutshell in Covent Garden, adds that the speech “should have been followed by another speech or a least a press release from the Treasury informing businesses on how they will be supported during the rest of this extremely long period of mandated closures.”
In more positive news, it is hoped that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce an extension of furlough until May. We will keep you updated with any further announcements when they take place.