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Industry petitions government not to wash its hands of responsibility on venue closures

Published:  17 March, 2020

The trade can now sign a petition that is urging the government to take urgent to action to provide financial and practical advice for the UK’s pubs, bars and restaurants.

Mounting criticism has been leveled at Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the government for a scattergun approach to guidance for individuals and businesses as the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak takes hold.

Yesterday, hospitality business owners said the PM's announcement has left them in a moral quandary: unsure as to whether to remain open and risk personal health, and the health of staff and customers, or to close and put the business and jobs at risk.

The petition, set up by Alex Claridge, chef and owner of Birmingham restaurant, The Wilderness, is now calling on the government to take decisive action. 

“The government’s total lack of responsibility for the hospitality industry is unacceptable. The hospitality industry is the third largest industry in the UK with many jobs at stake. In choosing to not officially close restaurants, bars, hotels and other venues and instead putting the onus on consumers and business owners is both a dangerous and cowardly decision,” the petition reads.

“We are petitioning for the government to take responsibility and formally close venues if that is what is actually required, instead of effectively doing so without taking ownership," the peition said. 

The petition is now calling on government to take stock of the business-critical issues affecting the hospitality industry at this afternoon’s briefing.

This includes “clear support [both] financial and practical” for staff and business owners alike and clarity around whether or not to close doors.

This second point remains the big decision in the short-term, as many fear that choosing to close means they will no longer be covered by insurance and therefore more businesses are likely to stay open, putting customers and staff at risk.

It is increasingly looking as if businesses may find themselves in an insurance black hole. 

Even if government does give the direction to close doors, most insurance companies only cover minimal business disruption, and not highly usual circusmtances with far-reaching consequences like pandemics. 

The Cheltenham Independent Bars & Restaurants Association said it has been in contact with their various insurance companies since Covid-19 was declared a notifiable disease by the UK government on March 5.

The response, it said, has been “disappointing and evasive. In short, they will not pay out for business interruption at this stage”. 

This only underscores the urgency of the govenment to put a financial safety net in place to "catch" businesses as they stumble over cash flow deficits over the next few weeks.

The call for better safeguarding measures has been echoed by many in the industry, including Diana Rollan, beverage manager at D&D Restaurants, who told Harpers that “Restaurants and bars in London are driving tourism and strongly affecting the economy. The government needs to step in to provide assistance and relief”.

You can sign the petition at, here.