"The entire sector should be booming...and it just isn’t" Liverpool hospitality boss speaks out as new data reveals losses in Christmas build up - The Guide Liverpool

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“The entire sector should be booming…and it just isn’t” Liverpool hospitality boss speaks out as new data reveals losses in Christmas build up

29/12/2021

New data from UKHospitality found city centre restaurants and bars were particularly hard hit as Christmas parties were cancelled and people returned to home-working.

Pubs, bars and restaurants lost £10,335 on average in the week leading up to Christmas, according to new data.

On Christmas Day takings were down 60% compared with 2019, new figures from industry body UKHospitality found.

The average losses are above the maximum £6,000 cash grants offered to each affected venue by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of his £1 billion fund announced last week.

City centre and London venues were hardest hit, with the rise of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and new work from home instructions knocking pre-Christmas celebrations badly, the trade body said.

The latest figures have led to calls from the organisation for the Government to ensure more support is offered to the sector as it struggles to recover.

By comparison, data from the weeks prior to Omicron emerging showed average sales had been at 98% of pre-pandemic levels, leading many to hope for a successful festive period.

December is typically equal to three months’ worth of trading, UKHospitality said, meaning the recovery in the sector and the economy more broadly could now take far longer as a result of the latest variant.

Paul Askew, Chef Patron of The Art School in Liverpool has spoken about what the next few weeks could have in store as consumer confidence still falls:

“The problem we have is being told there are no restrictions could be good news but unless something credible is done to increase consumer confidence people will continue to cancel or stay at home.

“Our business has been slowly eroded by the series of announcements to the present which cause anxiety around Omicron and in our situation in Liverpool we have seen big group bookings cancelled. The entire sector should be booming across the UK right now and it just isn’t.

“So this dithering in the middle ground may serve political convenience but not business recovery and confidence.

Paul Askew’s Barnacle on Duke Street

“The government has to give a clear statement to consumers that it’s safe to go out, or if it isn’t then enact a circuit breaker and compensate all of the businesses affected. It’s this intransigence which has been so damaging to the hospitality sector in the last few weeks as well as other sectors across the country which fuel the economy. The £6k max grant announced by the chancellor needs to be re-visited urgently as it does not come close to what has been lost – we are paying off CBILs, Bounce Back Loans and still no insurance pay outs have come through. I know some restaurateurs are being pursued for historical rent as well.

“I feel the country cannot be held any further back by people who are unvaccinated and in the hospital wards again. Society and our way of life has to move forward and we don’t feel too far away from 12 months ago last Christmas. The majority who have done what we have been asked of to get things moving should not be the ones caught in stasis.”

UKHospitality chief executive 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.

“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.”


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