These are sobering times for hospitality worldwide, but the potentially devastating implications of the Coronavirus lockdown for rural UK businesses have been starkly spelled out by Limewood boss Robin Hutson.
Businesses in rural areas will require government support until 2021 in order to survive, Hutson has said in a letter to PM Boris Johnson, in which he claims the “toxic recipe” of furlough ceasing and hospitality businesses opening under social distancing rules would translate to “mass redundancies and the permanent loss of hundreds of thousands of rural jobs” which would be “economically and socially devastating for rural Britain”.
Hutson pointed out that many rural hospitality businesses operate from small or repurposed buildings where social distancing is physically difficult to achieve. He added this would “push many rural businesses below their break-even point” and that a successful reopening during 2020 is looking unlikely for rural hospitality.
In the letter, which is supported by the likes of Olga Polizzi and and Andrew Stembridge, Hutson calls for measures including backdated furlough to include all employees up until 19 March, not just those RTI registered; an extended furlough period; an extension of the business rates holiday until the end of Q2 2021; rent assistance; the reduction of VAT, and more.
The UK government has been reasonably proactive when it comes to business support in the short term – let’s hope for UK businesses it is committed to supporting hospitality in the medium and long term too.