Westside BID today stepped up its demands for new state support for the hospitality sector after the a ‘lockdown by stealth’ threatened to hit festive takings by 40%.
The government has already come under pressure to increase the support after some businesses saw festive bookings ‘disappear overnight’ after the introduction of ‘Plan B’ restrictions to tackle Omicron.
Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin and CBI chief Tony Danker are among business leaders suggesting ministers are pursuing ‘lockdown by stealth’ at a time when the threat posed by Omicron had still not been established.
And trade body UK Hospitality has forecast that takings will be down as much as 40% in some areas at a time when Christmas is the most lucrative time of the year for hospitality.
Today, Westside BID’s general manager Mike Olley said: “The emerging messages from the government and senior health advisors are having a chilling effect on consumer confidence and this is beginning to hit how many people are going out.
“Fewer customers, cancelled parties, vaccine passports, less day-time trade because of ‘work from home’ advice are all creating a perfect storm that will hit revenues, cost jobs and in some cases close businesses.
“This has created a cliff edge not only for bars, restaurants and nightclubs but also for cinemas and theatres who had only just started to regain customers’ confidence.
“The government and specifically chancellor Rishi Sunak must understand the problem and react to it, as no area of business is as hard hit as the hospitality sector in the current circumstances.
“In short, Mr Sunak should immediately come home from his so-called ‘official’ four-day trip to California and get busy at his Treasury desk planning how to help struggling businesses.”
Data released by UK Hospitality from Monday to Sunday of last week showed a 13% drop in trade and a 15% increase in cancellations across the country when compared with pre-pandemic levels.
Westside BID has already backed UK Hospitality’s calls for urgent financial support to soften the blow through full business rates relief, grants, rent protection and extended VAT reductions.
The calls also include redirecting unspent grants available to the sector or by introducing new alternatives such as a discretionary fund to be administered by local authorities.
Mr Olley added: “What we are now saying is that funding support is needed now, pre-Christmas to help alleviate what will be millions of pounds in lost revenues.”