Calls for more support as 6000 UK premises ‘lost’ to lockdowns

Business rates holiday and VAT cut extension essential for hospitality sector’s survival, say trade groups

HOSPITALITY businesses need further support if they are to survive and play their part in rebuilding the economy, trade groups have said, as new figures show almost 6000 premises across the UK closed permanently last year.

UK Hospitality and the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) are calling on the Scottish and UK governments to deliver a “wide-ranging package of financial support” for the sector in their forthcoming Budgets (on 28th January and 3rd March respectively), with an extension of the business rates ‘holiday’ and VAT cut top of the list.

The calls come as new figures from the Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and Alix Partners revealed 5975 premises across the UK closed permanently in 2020 due to the COVID-19 lockdowns – nearly triple the number which closed in 2019.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said the figures underline the need for greater support for businesses.

“The loss of 6000 premises is a dreadful blow to this country’s hospitality sector, but it is going to be the tip of the iceberg if we continue on our current course,” she said.

“This is a stark reminder of the importance of having an exit strategy and ongoing support for businesses. Sustaining businesses, keeping them alive and keeping jobs protected is vitally important and is going to be key to recovery once we emerge from this.

“If we have the right support in place now, it will make the job of recovery much more achievable once we are in a position to reopen again.

“The forthcoming Budget must be a one which delivers a bold, wide-ranging package of financial support to ensure as many businesses as possible are saved. The VAT cut and business rates holiday extensions must be top of the menu.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said the figures show “what a devastating year 2020 was for pubs”.

“Our sector is far from out the woods yet though and it continues to fight for its very survival through the pandemic in 2021,” she said.

“Given this latest evidence showing how the COVID crisis and lockdown is ripping pubs away from their communities for good, it is more important than ever that the government backs our local pubs and brewers.

“If they are to survive the current onslaught they face though they need backing from government. This means grants delivered to them immediately before it’s too late. It also means reopening properly along with a stimulus package that helps pubs to thrive including extensions to the business rates holiday and VAT cut, as well as a beer duty cut.”

Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director for hospitality operators and food, said the report highlights the “huge damage wreaked by the pandemic on the licensed sector in 2020”.

“But consumers are desperate to get back to eating and drinking out, and we can be confident that footfall and sales will return when the sector can finally reopen,” he said.

“In the meantime, the case for government support over the next few months is urgent and compelling. There are better days to come, but the sector will be in survival mode for some time yet.”