One in three central London hospitality venues yet to reopen from lockdown won’t do so until footfall drastically improves, it was estimated today as pub giants called for more government support.
Trade association UKHospitality, which represents hotel, pub, restaurant and club owners, made the reopening forecast at a time when numerous people are yet to return to offices and travel restrictions keep tourists away.
Some firms have also struggled with making certain smaller sites financially viable due to social distancing rules.
The organisation estimates at least 350,000 jobs in the UK could go across the whole industry if there is a cliff-edge stop to the furlough scheme set for the end of next month.
UKHospitality’s boss Kate Nicholls said: “It is vital that we have a clear, coherent plan for their [hospitality businesses] recovery and a continuation of support until demand returns. In particular we urge the Government to provide a targeted extension of furlough and a continuation of business rate relief.”
A number of pub companies today said some of their London estate remains closed, although more reopenings are planned.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said some pubs “urgently need more footfall from people returning to offices and tourists”. McClarkin added: “That means a concerted campaign from the Government to give confidence to return to London and back to offices across the UK, as well as continued Government investment in our pubs in the form of a beer duty cut and business rates reform to help them survive now and thrive in the future.”
Jonathan Neame, boss of brewer and pub operator Shepherd Neame, said trade is picking up in the West End but still around 50% below last year. He added: “We intend to re-open all pubs during September, in the anticipation that more office workers will return, but still expect it to be thin pickings for a while.”
Slug & Lettuce owner Stonegate, said the recent Eat Out to Help Out scheme provided a welcome boost for businesses and gave customers the confidence to revisit their local pubs and restaurants. A spokesman added: “Public trust now needs to be rebuilt amongst commuters and tourists to return to the capital for work and leisure, as well as continued Government support for the sector in extending business rates relief as the capital gets back up and running.”
Greene King’s chief executive Nick Mackenzie also praised EOTHO and said the company would urge the government to consider an extension of a version of the scheme for city centre outlets.
Mackenzie added: “We also need financial support for the hospitality industry in major city centres, such as extending the current business rates holiday and the VAT cut.”