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Tough Christmas prompts new calls for extended relief for hospitality

Published:  04 January, 2022

New figures from UKHospitality show that pubs, bars and restaurants lost £10,335 on average in the week leading up to Christmas, due to fears over the new Covid-19 variant.

According to UKHospitality, Christmas Day takings were down 60% when compared to 2019. Venues in London and other key urban areas were hit particularly hard by the new work from home restrictions, a drop in consumer confidence, and the inevitable loss of footfall.

Yet in the weeks prior to the new variant becoming daily news, and the emergence of new government restrictions, average sales had been close to pre-pandemic levels (98%).

UKHospitality CEO, Kate Nicholls, said: “Hospitality businesses have been hit hard during a key trading period – and this after missing out on the crucial Christmas and New Year sales last year. With December usually equal to three months’ worth of trading income, this pushes back recovery by at least the same amount of time – and not just for the sector but for the whole country, as the latest ONS figures show growth in Q3 was driven by hospitality.”

She added: “Restrictions must be kept to a minimum and must be lifted as quickly as possible to help an already beleaguered sector or many will simply not survive – and those who do make it through face a return to 20% VAT in April.

“In order to help the industry recover and return to growth, the Government must commit to keeping VAT at 12.5% and offering enhanced rates relief. Further support will also be needed should additional restrictions be imposed or the tougher measures in Scotland and Wales be retained into 2022.”

As reported in Harpers, in December 2021 Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £1 billion support package to help ailing businesses, including £683 million in grants to be distributed among hospitality and leisure venues in England.

The fund comprised of a one-off grant of up to £6,000 per premise for eligible businesses. In addition, the government offered a £102 million top-up grant for local authorities to support other businesses.

However, while the package was greeted with enthusiasm from some quarters, certain organisations claimed that the amount “borders on insulting”.

“Businesses are failing, people are losing their livelihoods and the industry is crippled. Mixed messaging, coupled with additional restrictions, have had a catastrophic impact on our sector over the last two weeks,” commented Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association.