Government forces 'restrictive straitjacket' on hospitality as tougher tier restrictions announced

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Government forces 'restrictive straitjacket' on hospitality as tougher tier restrictions announced

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Restaurants and pubs in Tier 3 areas will be restricted to takeaway only under tough new measures announced by the Government that have been described as being 'a restrictive straitjacket' on the sector at best and 'a lockdown in all but name' at worst.

Addressing the House of Commons this afternoon (23 November), Johnson confirmed that England's national Coronavirus lockdown will be lifted on Wednesday 2 December and replaced by the three-tier Coronavirus alert system previously imposed.

However, claiming that the previous tiered restrictions 'were not quite enough' to reduce the R value (the number of people a single infected person will pass the virus on to) below one, the Prime Minister added that the tiers 'needed to be made tougher' and proceeded to outline a series of new measures targeted specifically at the hospitality sector.

Following on from reports this morning​, Johnson confirmed that hospitality businesses in Tier 3 areas will have to remain locked down and only be allowed to offer takeaways under the new rules, while those in Tier 2 will only be able to serve alcohol with 'substantial meals'.

Previously, restaurants in Tier 3 were able to continue operating an indoor service, as were pubs and bars providing they served a 'substantial meal'; in Tier 2 businesses were able to continue operating as normal, subject to national restrictions, but trade was severely impacted by restrictions on households being able to mix in indoor settings.

In what could be best described as a pyrrhic victory for the sector, Johnson also confirmed that the 10pm curfew will be extended by an hour, meaning hospitality venues in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas will be able to take orders up until 10pm and then be ordered to close by 11pm.

The Government will set out which areas will go into which tier on Thursday (26 November), but the Prime Minister did warn that many areas are likely to be moved into a higher tier than they were in before.

Killing Christmas

Reacting to the announcement, UKHospitality has called the Government’s new measures 'a restrictive straitjacket' at best and 'a lockdown in all but name' at worst.

The trade body warns that the tighter rules will lead to permanent business closures and many job losses.

“The Government is making a point of saying that these measures are needed in order to save Christmas," says UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.

"In reality, they are killing Christmas and beyond for many businesses and their customers who look forward to, and rely on, venues being open at this time of year. Sadly, for many staff, it will be a Christmas out of work.

“If there needs to be a tightening of restrictions, it should not come at the expense of hospitality. Only a small fraction of cases have been linked to our businesses and venues have shown that they can provide safe environments for customers and staff. If the Government pursues this course of action, it is going to mean permanent closures and job losses.

“Tier 3 will be lockdown in everything but name for hospitality and will leave businesses almost no room for manoeuvre. With household mixing still not permitted, businesses in Tier 2 are going to find revenues severely slashed at a crucial time for the sector.

“Immediate financial support must now be rapidly increased as many businesses will be forced to close, in some cases permanently."

Nicholls adds that a recent UKHospitality member survey has shown the current Tier 3 restrictions, which will now effectively apply to Tier 2 areas, will see 94% of hospitality businesses operate at a loss or simply become unviable.

"The new Tier 3 simply means no chance of trading out of this," she continues.

"Government must also confirm that the increased State Aid cap of €3m will be applied – as this is preventing the distribution of grants to tens of thousands of businesses employing nearly a million people.

 “Adding a degree of flexibility to the mandatory curfew will help with dispersal of customers, but it doesn’t change the fact that businesses won’t be able generate revenues after 10pm.

“The big stumbling block for businesses is the lack of household mixing. This will be a huge hit that will be felt all the harder because it is almost Christmas. The Government could throw the sector a lifeline if it adopted the Welsh model of limited household mixing to let people socialise safely without jeopardising public or business health.”

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