Hospitality leaders respond to UK tier system

UK: From 2 December, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has placed most of England into the two toughest levels of measures and hospitality leaders have expressed their views.

Tony Matharu, chief executive of the Blue Orchid Hotels Group and director of the Central London Alliance:

“Hospitality businesses are already severely impacted and are disproportionately affected by the reductions in commuters and other visitors and travellers into London. Many local businesses and their employees are crippling under the weight of the pandemic and associated restrictions; every week matters to these businesses. The catastrophic impact on London is reflected in London having the second highest unemployment rate in the country in Q3 2020 (six per cent) and the largest decrease in workforce jobs among all UK regions, at 104,000. The most recent furlough scheme statistics show that London had the highest take-up rate in the UK (13 per cent). London and its key hospitality sector now needs special, targeted and sectoral support.

“It is important to stress that hospitality businesses, venues, theatres, arts and cultural organisations have been imperilled through no fault of their own. Despite considerable efforts to provide safe, secure environments and conscientious efforts to keep the public safe, they have thus far been rewarded by inconsistent and incoherent directives and muddled thinking, creating uncertainty, and making it impossible to plan ahead.

“To boost confidence, the Government must urgently set out with absolute clarity the support that businesses will be receiving up until Q2 2021. Businesses do not want support – they absolutely need it, because of the lack of footfall and demand as a direct consequence of the pandemic and the Government’s response to it.”

Stuart Procter, chief operating officer, The Stafford Collection:

“Across the Stafford Collection we’ve ended up with sites in both Tier Two and Tier Three. Northcote located in the Ribble Valley has been told they cannot open which goes beyond frustrating. We’ve invested tens of thousands of pounds in PPE, thermo-cameras and generally making the venue Covid safe. Why are you able to get your hair cut in that same area but not visit arguably some of the safest spaces? It’s frustrating. 

“Fortunately, we’ve got an excellent at home box which Lisa and the team have developed to keep them busy but it’s not the same as welcoming customers through the door. Then looking at London, we have The Stafford and Norma in Tier Two. I’m of course delighted that we can open again and will be doing so on the 2 December, but the restrictions will continue to cause issues. Still no mixing of households indoors and a maximum table of six seems crazy when thousands of people are now allowed to attend a sporting event together. Of course, we keep soldiering on but there’s only so long we can keep going like this.”

Tom Aikens, chef and founder, Muse:

“It seems that this time around there seems to have been a bit more thought put into the different tiering systems. The statistics show that hospitality is not the cause of the resurgence of the virus – as an industry we are strict with health and safety regulations anyway, and are the safest and most sanitised environments in which to meet. We’ve been used as the scapegoat for too long. We should be allowed to remain open, operating at our full capacity without the curfew – I really do question what that is really going to accomplish limiting last orders to 10pm. We should be given our full licence to run our venues and make as much revenue as we can – this year has been hard enough and the job losses catastrophic. This scaremongering has to stop – it’s turning customers away. Let us operate fully and help build up the economy again. It’s tough for small businesses as it is. Pubs and publicans, well they’re really not going to have a happy Christmas.”

Alasdair Elwick, general manager, Forest Side:

“Firstly it’s a great relief that we can open the properties as planned. As throughout the whole process we will be following government guidelines closely in our already Covid secure environment. However, I do question some of the new guidance: serving alcohol only to guests eating a substantial meal? I think it’s hard to justify that at a hotel a guest cannot enjoy a glass of wine in their room, or in an outdoor setting? This is just another blow.”

Michael Caines, chef patron, Lympstone Manor, The Harbourside Refuge, The Cove:

“For some areas it seems a bit unfair, but they have taken into account the capacity of the NHS when making the decision and we need to adhere to it. Naturally, I’m delighted to be Tier One in Cornwall and Tier Two in Devon, whilst being incredibly sympathetic towards those placed into Tier Three. Hopefully we can all pull together to ensure things continue to improve.”

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