Coronavirus: trade groups welcome wage support package

Measures must be delivered swiftly as pubs and restaurants ordered to shut

If a premises manager’s licence lapses, it could force temporary closure

TRADE groups have welcomed the business support package unveiled by the UK Government yesterday (March 20) but say measures must be delivered swiftly after pubs and restaurants were ordered to close last night amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a raft of measures (, including a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which will see the government pay 80% of the wages of ‘furloughed workers’ who would otherwise have been laid off, up to £2500 a month; and the deferral of VAT payments for businesses until June 30. It follows the announcement this week that hospitality businesses are to be given a 12-month break in business rates.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), said the measures “will go a long way to offering comfort and reassurance” to hospitality businesses and employees.

“This is a catastrophic situation which requires drastic measures and we are pleased to see the government responding to this,” he said.

“For many businesses, it may sadly be too late.

“There will be some businesses that will not survive beyond the next few days and therefore it is critical that clear and concise information follows and that businesses and employees are able to access the measures of fiscal support outlined in a seamless way as soon as possible.”

In a statement, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) said: “These extra unprecedented measures are very much welcomed and are a life-saver for Scotland’s pubs and bars and the hospitality industry in general.

“Considering our industry was on the edge of a precipice only a week or so ago, the future, for both businesses and staff, is now more secure than anyone could have ever foreseen.”

UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the measures are “very welcome” and urged the government to implement them as soon as possible.

“This generous package will support our fantastic staff, is very welcome and additionally gives hope to those who have been laid off,” she said.

“This may have saved up to one million jobs, but we need it as soon as possible to ensure we can continue to trade.

“While VAT deferrals preserve some cash, we still face rent payments next week before the support is due to arrive. Banks and landlords need to do more to help us bridge the gap towards this generous government support.

“Damage is being done now, so we need help now.”

The British Beer & Pub Association said: “As a sector employing nearly one million people, the chancellor’s support package on staff wages will safeguard thousands of livelihoods and help closed pubs try to get through this difficult period.”