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Two Thirds Of Hospitality Businesses Do Not Believe They Can Survive Another Three Months Of Lockdown

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Two Thirds Of Hospitality Businesses Do Not Believe They Can Survive Another Three Months Of Lockdown

What would you do if you lost your favourite pub? Industry insiders fear that's exactly what the lockdown could cost us.

While no one can be sure when the UK's pubs, bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen their doors, what we do know is that it's likely to be some time before we're able to enjoy a freshly-poured pint in our local.

But new research claims two-thirds of all hospitality businesses don't think they will actually survive another three months of lockdown - and as many as two million jobs could go.

Many hospitality businesses are also fearful that it could take as long as six months for customer confidence to return to normal after venues are allowed to open.

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The industry is pursuing a desperate case for some form of greater government intervention, to make sure people's favourite pub, bars and restaurants are still there for them.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Earlier this week, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove admitted that hospitality businesses will be 'among the last' to exit lockdown, saying that the 'social life of the nation' must return over time.

Professor Chris Whitty also advised that social distancing measures will probably have to remain in place until at least the end of 2020, again casting doubt over the future of those summery beer garden moments.

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But one study, conducted by KAM Media, ties into a new campaign spearheaded by restaurateur Jonathan Downey and Hospitality Union, to fight for a nine-month rent holiday supported by the government - something that 87 percent of operators say they need in order to survive.

Ye Olde London pub in London, UK. Credit: PA
Ye Olde London pub in London, UK. Credit: PA

In a letter to the government, Downey outlined a plan to help 'protect thousands of hospitality businesses and save millions of hospitality jobs', writing: "We estimate that more than half of hospitality businesses and as many as 2 million jobs will not survive the next few months. We need an extraordinary next measure.

"We need a #NationalTimeOut - a nine-month national payment pause granted to business tenants and to the landlords of commercial premises."

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Of course, the road to reopening is also only half the battle.

As lockdown is lifted, the return to normal will be far from instant - meaning the reality of our blissful reunion with the pub is probably more sobering than many might realise.

While many of us might be been dreaming of real-world drinks with friends rather than Zoom parties, and that first glorious Friday night into the greatest weekend this nation has ever seen, it could just be a fantasy - something that may feel sad for the punters, but sadder still for the industry itself.

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Credit: KAM Media
Credit: KAM Media

William Lees-Jones, Managing Director of brewery and pub company JW Lees - which has had to close 150 pubs and currently has 987 of its 1,400 staff furloughed - told LADbible: "Yes there's a load of people who want to go to the pub, but there's also a load of other people - about 25 percent of the population - who are saying, 'Do you know what? We're going to stay at home because we're really worried about going out, and it's not until we've been reassured that people aren't catching the terrible virus anymore that we'll want to go out'."

The whole experience of eating and drinking out is also likely to be pretty different, with some places in Hong Kong implementing measures such as staff wearing face masks, or health checks before customers are able to dine.

Lees-Jones explained: "There are lots of touch points in a pub, so when you order a drink, how's it then put on the bar?

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"How does the person then take that? If you've got menus, do those menus need to be disposable, or do we just do them on chalkboards? Do we cut back what we're offering?

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

"In the Czech Republic for instance, which is now open, restaurants are allowed to open before pubs. You have to book a slot and if you arrive five minutes late, you don't get your slot. You sit down for a meal, and your meal is only allowed to last 90 minutes, and in 90 minutes' time some other people will come along and they then have a slot."

While Lees-Jones is optimistic that businesses like his may be able to start reopening sooner rather than later, he warned that if the right measures aren't taken, the effects could lead to many businesses going under.

"We've got to be able to learn from places that are ahead of the UK in terms of what's working," he said.

Lees-Jones added: "I think the thing that worries me most is that the government has been quick to react and say that it's going to support, and it needs to follow that through.

"Industries like ours - the first to close and the last to reopen - need to have some form of sustained support to stop people from going bust."

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, agrees that businesses like pubs will be 'lost' if such measures are not taken.

"Pubs are the original social network, so reopening them with social distancing restrictions is going to be extremely difficult. Both for staff and customers alike," she said.

"It's clear the Government are going to need to give pubs special consideration for a restart, as well as specific support just for them," she continued.

The association wants the government's Job Retention Scheme to continue for pubs throughout their closure along with a 'back to work' scheme with the same level of support when they can re-open, as well as extended grant support for pubs, including the 10,000 above the threshold for support at present.

"Pubs will be lost if such measures are not taken, and will help the trade whilst it slowly recovers. We need these measures put in place now, to ensure pubs survive and be ready to re-open when safe to do so - and then help as they slowly recover."

Lees-Jones is hoping that pubs might still be back in business this summer - and wants to study what works and what doesn't as other countries slowly start to lift lockdown measures.

"At the moment if I was to rebase what's happened in the Czech Republic and look at that in the UK, you'll see car dealerships opening in the middle of May, small shops at end of May, medium sized shops at the beginning of June, restaurants and pubs at the end of June or beginning of July, and hotels in the middle of July," he said.

"But even then, there'll be no airlines, there'll be no gatherings of more than 50 people. No festivals, no concerts, no sport.

"If we're still in this position come Christmas, the country will be bankrupt, so we do need to at some point say we need to start releasing people.

"Let's see what seems to be working in other places, and learn from that."


Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: restaurants, uk news, News, Hospitality, Bars, Pubs, Coronavirus

Jess Hardiman
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