Covid tiers 'a mortal blow' to hospitality

By Tom Espiner & Simon Browning
BBC News

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media captionBar chain owner Martin Greenhow: ''This is pure and simple business torture"

The hospitality sector will be "decimated" by the new Covid tiers, according to bar chain owner Martin Greenhow, who says it "isn't viable to operate" under the conditions.

Mr Greenhow, who has bars in cities including Manchester, says the measures are "a mortal blow" to the sector.

The hospitality industry has warned that tens of thousands of businesses will close without extra support.

It comes as more pub groups have been forced to make additional job cuts.

Mitchells & Butlers, owner of the All Bar One and Harvester chains, revealed it had cut 1,300 jobs while Fuller Smith & Turner made 350 redundancies.

The government has set out what level of restrictions England's regions will face when lockdown ends with cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle put in the highest tiers.

But chains such as Mr Greenhow's Mojo bars were struggling even before the second lockdown in England, imposed on 5 November.

On the Friday before lockdown, Mr Greenhow's Manchester bar took £175. On the same Friday night a year before, it took £10,000.

Even tier one means that bars have less than half the usual number of customers, he says.

"It's simply not a business model that can work," he adds. "Right now, for hospitality, all the tiers are a version of waterboarding. We're allowed out for a brief gasp of fiscal oxygen, then we're slammed back down."

"This is pure and simple business torture."

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UK Hospitality boss Kate Nicholls said the sector is "bearing the brunt of the pain of closure" under the new Covid rules. She added that tens of thousands of businesses will close without additional support.

Under the new restrictions, pubs in tier 2 regions can only open if they serve substantial meals and households are not allowed to mix indoors.

Under tier 3, pubs and restaurants must close their doors but can offer takeaways.

Ms Nicholls said that 98% of its members were in areas with tier 2 or tier 3 coronavirus restrictions, and nearly nine in 10 "say that they are not viable to operate at those level of restrictions".

"Without additional support to sustain these businesses through this crisis, we are going to see tens of thousands of businesses closing and over a million job losses," she added.

'Devastating news'

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward said hospitality and other businesses needed a "meaningful package" of support from the government so the economy can "continue to function in an effective way".

"The crisis faced by hospitality businesses across Birmingham is of particular concern from an economic perspective - a crisis that would have been exacerbated whether our city was placed in tier 2 or 3," said Mr Ward.

"Many businesses in this previously thriving sector are warning they may not survive the coming months if they are dealt the double blow of more restrictions and inadequate financial support."

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The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) described the imposition of the tier three level as "devastating news" for those areas.

"The government must compensate these businesses for the period of time they have been closed, and the loss of business suffered due to restrictions through the festive period," said NTIA chief executive Michael Kill.

The British pub industry sent a letter on Wednesday pleading with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to save the industry, which it said was facing "the darkest of moments".

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