Allowing people in Britain to gather in ‘unregulated’ homes over Christmas but banning mixing in pubs is ‘making a mockery’ of the industry, a top industry figure said today.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), told MPs that ‘the ban on actual household mixing inside our venues within the tiering system is absolutely devastating for the pub sector’.
She told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee that bringing people together is ‘what we do’, adding: ‘We are a community centre, a community hub and we’ve invested millions to make us Covid-secure.’
She continued: ‘It is actually making a mockery by banning us from allowing people to mix and meet together when the Government has now introduced a Christmas plan that allows them to do that in private, unregulated and unsafe settings where all bets are off.’
Meanwhile Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon which now has less than 400 of its 875 pubs across Britain still open, warned today that the ‘New Year promises carnage’ for hospitality.
It comes as London went into Tier Three at midnight along with parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, shutting all pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Pub industry bosses say 56,000 jobs are now at risk in London with all 3,680 pubs in the capital now shut apart from a selection doing takeaway, with 8,000 of these jobs hit by Tier Three.
UKHospitality said 150,000 jobs were at risk after pubs and restaurants were forced to shut in London – and there are now fears over how long the closures will last.
The tougher Tier Two rules since the second lockdown ended have also left pubs in these areas facing a cash crunch of large rents, often high debt and low income.
Analysis by real estate advisers Altus Group said nearly 14,000 pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in the capital will now be closed or restricted to takeaway services, while more than 1,500 hotels and guest houses have also shut with limited exceptions.
The UK Cinema Association said more than 100 sites now had to close, while all West End theatres have shut despite only just reopening after the second lockdown.
People enjoy an outdoor meal at a pub in London’s Soho last night on the last day of Tier Two
Under Tier Three rules, hospitality businesses such as restaurants, pubs, cafes and coffee shops must close to sit-in customers and can only offer a takeaway service.
In Tier Two, people can go to the pub but must only do so with other members of their household or support bubble – although they can mix with others outside.
Ms McClarkin also questioned how pubs were making sure that people are not mixing indoors but emphasised: ‘We are publicans, not policemen.’
She told the committee: ‘The vast majority I have to say are abiding by those rules, and that’s pubs and pub-goers.’
‘We absolutely support enforcement measures. If pubs are flouting those rules then I think they should have action taken against them because they are undoing the absolutely sterling work the majority of pubs are doing,’ she added.
UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls (left) and British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin (right) have both voiced concerns about the long-term impact of closures
‘Inevitably we will rely on the information we’re given from customers and their ability and desire to want to comply with the rules.’
The next review on tiers will be on December 23, which is a week sooner than a review every 14 days, as the Government had previously committed.
Mr Martin told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The worry is that Government seems oblivious to the economic consequences of its actions.
‘Apart from two remote areas, all pubs in the UK are effectively shut, but about a third have opened as restaurants and will be lossmaking, since they’re not designed for that.
‘The financial elastic for hospitality is stretched to breaking point now – the New Year promises carnage.’
Tim Martin (pictured in October), chairman of JD Wetherspoon which now has less than 400 of its 875 pubs open, warned today that the ‘New Year promises carnage’ for hospitality
It come as Rishi Sunak is expected to reject a plea by London’s mayor Sadiq Khan for a bailout for the hospitality industry after the capital was moved into Tier Three.
He called on the Chancellor to put a compensation scheme in place, guaranteeing to make up all lost income for the festive season based on last year’s returns.
But the Treasury said Mr Sunak had already announced support for hospitality firms and the funds on offer would not be increased.
A source said: ‘We’ve put in place £280billion worth of support in this pandemic to protect millions of jobs and businesses.
‘The furlough scheme has been extended through to March and businesses can apply for grants and Government-guaranteed loans as well as enjoying VAT holidays and business rates relief.’
The streets of London’s Soho are cleaned this morning after rubbish was left on them last night
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday that he was forced to put London into Tier Three along with parts of Essex and Hertfordshire in a bid to slow ‘sharp, exponential rises’ in coronavirus across all ages.
Theatre bosses said the new rules – which will also force them to close venues – will prove ‘devastating’.
Mr Khan said: ‘I don’t want London to be in Tier Three for a day longer than necessary. I am hugely concerned about the negative impact that the additional restrictions will have on jobs and many businesses that are already struggling to stay afloat.
‘We now urgently need much more government support for the sectors of our economy that are being hit the hardest, including hospitality, culture, and leisure.
‘It is crucial that ministers urgently put in place a compensation scheme for all lost income, based on last year’s returns, for any businesses affected by the further restrictions during this crucial festive period.’
Revellers dance in the street in Soho last night ahead of London being moved into Tier Three
It comes as a senior minister said the Government is to press ahead with the easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas even though it will lead to an increase in the infection rate.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said that it would be up to people to make a ‘personal judgment’ whether they wanted to meet up with vulnerable family members over the holiday period.
He suggested that some people may decide to ‘keep it small’ and put off larger gatherings until the spring, saying: ‘Easter can be the new Christmas.’
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is resuming talks over the plans for up to three households to mix between December 23 and 27 with leaders of the devolved administrations.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (left) is expected to reject a plea by London Mayor Sadiq Khan (right) for a bailout for the hospitality industry after the capital was moved into Tier Three
A UK Government source has acknowledged the four UK nations may take differing approaches, but insisted there would be no change in the law in England.
It comes as nearly 10.8 million more people begin living under the toughest restrictions as London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire move into Tier Three.
With 61 per cent of England’s population now living under the strictest measures, ministers were due to formally review which tiers are appropriate for each area.
A snap YouGov poll of 3,856 adults found 57 per cent believed the Christmas plans should be dropped and the current rules remain in place during the festive period.