Pub and restaurant bosses have hit out at “dizzyingly complex” rules on socialising and urged ministers to maintain the latest guidelines or risk “a tsunami” of job losses.
Industry chiefs have grown frustrated with what they described as “mixed messages” from the Government regarding advice on socialising over recent weeks.
Last week, Boris Johnson warned that the UK could be heading for a second nationwide lockdown, a move which could force venues to shut down for a prolonged period.
It comes just days after people were told they were only allowed to socialise in groups of up to six at any one time.
Tim Martin, chief executive of JD Wetherspoon, said: “The main government mistake is a dizzyingly complex set of rules, which keep changing.
“Only two things are scientifically proven to work: social distancing and handwashing. By introducing a changing rota of complexities like the rule of six, millions of people have forgotten the two main rules.”
Hugh Osmond, whose restaurant group Various Eateries owns the Coppa Club and Strada brands, added: “We have to bring an end to this randomness of announcements made at the last min- ute. Is it Eat Out To Help Out and everybody should go back out, or is it rule of six? We don’t know if the Government is accelerating or reversing.”
With the furlough scheme set to close on Oct 31, hospitality businesses are concerned that any further tightening of restrictions could lead to job losses on a mass scale. Tens of thousands of roles within the sector have already been lost since the crisis began.
Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller’s, urged the Prime Minister to maintain current advice on socialising until the end of the year to avoid a wave of job cuts. He added that “mixed mes- sages” from the Government were con- fusing consumers and placing further strain on struggling firms.
“We’re only a week into these new restrictions and I think they are sensible, but any further creep on that will cause untold damage and result in a tsunami of job losses,” he said.
“The Government has introduced a job retention bonus designed to encourage us to keep people employed but we can’t keep people employed if we’re barely open.”
He added that the rule changes would hit the younger generation particularly hard, with this part of society accounting for the majority of the hospitality sector’s workforce.
“It’s going to be younger people that are paying for this in terms of the state of the economy,” Mr Emeny said.
The warnings come as industry chiefs call for a fundamental review of the business rates model, recommending that rates are suspended for the hospitality sector until April next year and that a new, lower rate for the industry is introduced.
The recommendations are among those which have been put forward in response to the Treasury’s call for evidence on its review into the rates system.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “The rates holiday needs to be the first action in a sustained package of support and reform that helps businesses survive.”