Hospitality faces lockdown 'in all but name' as isolation rules force restaurants to close

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Hospitality faces lockdown 'in all but name' as isolation rules forces restaurants to close

Related tags Coronavirus Staff isolation lockdown Restaurant

Hospitality could face a lockdown 'in all but name' as more and more businesses are forced to close because of staff having to self isolate.

Restaurants, pubs and bars across the country are having to close their doors temporarily because of a single member of staff testing positive for the virus, which is causing entire teams to have to isolate for up to 10 days as a result of contact tracing.

Under the rules, even if someone tests negative for the virus after being told to self isolate, they must still quarantine for the rest of the 10 days with no way of being able to reduce the isolation period. 

High-profile restaurants that are currently closed because of staff being ordered to isolate include Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson's Rochelle Canteen in London's Shoreditch; Anna Tobias' Café Deco in Bloomsbury; and Gary Usher's central Manchester restaurant Kala, which has now had to close twice in quick succession as a result of a case of Covid-19 being reported amongst the team.

Bill Addy, CEO of Liverpool BID Company, has called on the Government to provide specific support for independents and small businesses forced to close because of Test and Trace.

“We are seeing an increasing number of independent businesses in hospitality and the wider visitor economy being forced to close their doors when a member of their team isolates," he says.

"Without specific support this could close them down."

Addy suggests a dedicated grant be introduced to support firms and help cover the costs they still have to invest in while their doors are closed.

"Things like food they can no longer sell, or staff costs as furlough cover reduces, rent and more."

Rather than risk a possible third shutdown, Kala has now chosen to remain closed until 19 July, when all restrictions are meant to be lifted.

In a statement, the restaurant said: "Reopening and closing the restaurants costs so much money, energy and time, and we are just not able to do this again.

"The rules are there for a reason and we will continue to follow them. But how much longer can businesses be put under such pressure?

"How much more strain can the hospitality industry handle?"

Loungers chairman and co-founder Alex Reilley tweeted yesterday (29 June) that hospitality will, for all intents and purposes, be in lockdown again unless the rules forcing staff to isolate for the entire 10-day period are changed.

"Asking whole teams of people who don’t have Covid to isolate for 10 days will very quickly result in a lockdown of hospitality in all but name," he wrote. 

"We can’t go on like this - urgent action is required."

Alun Sperring believes an enforced closure is all but inevitable for his large Brighton restaurant The Chilli Pickle given the size of its team.

“A lot of smaller independents in Brighton & Hove have already been forced to close," he tells BigHospitality​. "We’re bracing ourselves for it. There's no furlough to fall back on and we're also worried that we'll close for 10 days and then be forced to close again when someone else tests positive." 

"It's busy in Brighton at the moment and it's all hand on deck in the run up to freedom day," he continues.

"We aren’t in a position to arrange the team into bubbles like we did during lockdown. In many ways we were better off when there was restrictions in place and there was more support." 

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, has told the Financial Times​that the situation is 'a nightmare' for businesses.

Last summer when hospitality reopened following the first lockdown, the Government permitted a manual contact tracing system with people writing down their name and number when entering a venue, which according to Nicholls allowed managers to judge how close a contact was and whether staff were safe to continue work.

“Now it is much more automated and the system sends out blanket notifications, there is no nuance,” she told the FT​. 

UKHospitality is currently lobbying the government to allow hospitality businesses to operate a 'test and release' scheme, whereby staff who were self isolating could return to work if they had a negative test result.

Writing on Twitter today (30 June), Nicholls said: "We have proposed a test to release and test to remain scheme for vaccinated staff to allow an early return to work, to ease pressures causing businesses to close at present due to blanket self isolation."

Related topics Business & Legislation Fine Dining

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